By and large, we’ve grown accustomed to only seeing and interacting with the top layer of Cincinnati. I seldom appreciate that beneath the level and impervious pavement of Highland Ave, besides the municipal infrastructure, there is soil, a biological history of erosion and ecological succession.
In purpose, the urban, as a dense and hardy human habitat, is no less natural than an ant hill. In function, on the other hand, the urban is increasingly discordant with the more-than-human ecosystem.
The taproot of ecological consciousness is likely the appreciation that all human endeavor is contained by but also comprises nature. Ecohouse practices like water catchment, composting and gardening begin to harmonize our urban experience with the functions and cycles of the local ecosystem and accumulate, in mind and matter, to produce an ecohouse culture. These simple practices reveal that culture is, to some degree, a choice we make daily. The ecohouse is simply a context that empowers a few Cincinnatians to cultivate values and practices of a deep(er) ecology.
Paraphrasing the resident ecohouse oboist: intentional community is mindful daily routine. If, through more mindful daily routine, a single household can incubate a hyperlocal culture that appreciates the city as a single layer enmeshed in a broader ecology, then why shouldn’t we expect — and demand — the same from the city?
Suggested reading: The Work of Local Culture by Wendell Berry