Passage #121: 26 October 2011

Boundary Issues

We are accustomed to thinking of "marginalization" as a kind of disadvantage, and of course in many respects -- economic, political, etc. -- it is. But in other respects, the margins are the place to be. Rather than being places that people must be forced to go, they are places that they actively seek out. Think of shorelines and foothills and all the advantages they provide. Perhaps it is because we are encouraged to consider edges in terms of exclusion and barriers -- what with all of our walls and fences and abstract property boundaries -- that we ignore the subtler effects that edges can create.

In nature, too, there is life that thrives along the edges, that makes use of the inevitable flows of energy and materials that the edges promote. Consider mountain lions in the city. Consider how they got there and what they are seeking. We may think that this grid of streets we've made is rather bland and uniform, but it is teeming with edges, many of which we cannot see until they are used as habitat.

Indeed, they make use of the edges we've created in time as well as in space. Most of the wildlife that we think of as nocturnal is actually crepuscular -- adapted to thrive during the twilight hours. But now that we have created a state of persistent twilight that lasts from dusk till dawn, should we be surprised when we find these previously vespertine and matutinal animals partying all night long and, what's more, partying in the beautiful edges that we've built for them in our hedgerows and alleyways?

Tonight we experience these edge effects for ourselves.

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