It’s a tableau reminiscent of First World War entrenchments, a narrow strip of land with North Korean and South Korean soldiers, tanks, and barbed wire lining each side.
Said strip is about four kilometers across and 250 kilometers long, and neatly cuts the Korean Peninsula in two. It was formed in peace talks after the Korean War when both sides backed off from their newly agreed-upon border, but only by two kilometers. If any human being from either side steps into this No-Man’s Land, it will be the last step they take.
As a consequence of this cold war-like stalemate, these 250,000 acres have been virtually untouched by human hands for over half a century. The Korean Demilitarized Zone is an unexpected and unplanned nature preserve, the likes of which the world has rarely seen.
Alan Weisman devotes a chapter to the DMZ in his 2007 non-fiction work, The World Without Us, which explores how the planet might change years, decades, or centuries after humans disappear from Earth.
The DMZ is a perfect test case for such a withdrawal of human life. Rare and even nearly extinct species have found a home in this uniquely-protected wilderness space. Weisman mentions rumors of Siberian tigers slowly regrowing their numbers in the DMZ, and although to date there are many enthusiastic amateurs peering into the space from the southern side and no confirmed sightings, it is a large area and they are silent, solitary hunters.
On the other hand, the endangered red-crowned crane is a familiar site flying above the DMZ and wading through its wetland areas.
The threatened goat species, the Amur goral, is particularly near to disappearing in South Korea, with only 250 species, but the growing population within the DMZ is a safeguard from extirpation within the country.
The Korean DMZ is a unique case, free from the treads of human footsteps, but not abandoned. Indeed, it is under constant scrutiny and guard. But it is not the only example of a space allowed to return to the wild.
A few years ago I saw a fine arts professor from my local university, David McMillan, present on his photographic exploration of Chernobyl. The town and surrounding region have been wholly abandoned since the nuclear disaster more than 30 years ago. It is not the ideal spot for an impromptu wildlife haven, as humans surrendered the space only because the radiation forced them to do so. Yet even here in this crumbling, poisoned city, life finds a way.
McMillan’s photos tell a story. A rewilding is taking place, as the city is slowly dismantled and replaced by the surrounding plant and animal life. Concrete crumbles, even radioactive pollutants eventually decay to more stable isotopes, and the place is far less poisonous than it once was. Eventually there may not be any evidence that such a thing as a human being ever lived here.
There are lessons that Chernobyl and the DMZ can teach us. First, conservation can sometimes be as simple as leaving nature alone to do what it does best, so creating large enough preserves in enough different places can go a long way. Second, while we think we rule the world and that our monuments and works are era-defining, and perhaps they are, nothing, good or bad, lasts forever. This too, shall pass.
This article was first published by Care2.com on 13 Aug 2017.
Share this post with your friends
You may also like:
Top-Viewed Posts Last 30 Days
- POLL: Should hunting with hounds be banned? – [7201 Views]
- POLL: Should the trophy hunting of bears and wolves be banned? – [3186 Views]
- POLL: Should the slaughter of badgers in the UK be finally stopped? – [2939 Views]
- POLL: Should trophy hunting in Kyrgystan be banned? – [1710 Views]
- POLL: Should SeaWorld be closed down? – [1520 Views]
- POLL: Should Japan be sanctioned for continuing to slaughter whales? – [1112 Views]
- POLL: Should Yellowstone’s Iconic Grizzly Bears be Stripped of Federal Protection? – [1013 Views]
- POLL: Should roadside zoos be closed down? – [976 Views]
- Karma? Another Trophy Hunter Has Been Killed by an Elephant [859 Views]
- POLL: Should we prevent our cats from killing birds? – [811 Views]
Top-Viewed Posts Last 12 Months
- Gray Squirrels versus Red Squirrels – The Facts [8014 Views]
- POLL: Should foxes be culled to protect domestic pets? [3799 Views]
- POLL: Should the cruel sport of bullfighting be banned? [2873 Views]
- POLL: Should Canada ban the hunting of seals? [2667 Views]
- POLL: Should the Tories be allowed to bring back fox hunting? [2578 Views]
- POLL: Should wild elephants be sold to Chinese zoos? [2322 Views]
- POLL: Should Japan be sanctioned for slaughtering Minke whales? [2289 Views]
- POLL: Should all tiger farms in China be closed down? [2081 Views]
- POLL: Should the export of elephants to China be banned? [2068 Views]
- POLL: Should there be a worldwide ban on fur farming? [2028 Views]