Cryptoforestry: Inner City Reforestation in Utrecht and the G/Local Amazon; Psychogeography is involved
January 12, 2011 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Cryptoforestry is a heady blog that covers cryptoforests of all sorts, from feral forests that thrive next to heavily developed urban environments without human assistance, land in limbo and "states of vegetation for which lay-language has no name", incognito forests that hide in plain view, precognitive forests that are about to become forest or are forest Fata Morgana, and unappreciated forests that are considered wastelands. The scope of the blog covers local Utrecht sites to the "g/local" Amazon basin, and lands in-between. All this is filtered through the lens of psychogeography, emphasizing "the psychological effects of a forest rather than canopy cover or land use as of importance for classification."

In addition, there are a number of posts in praise of weeds and on foraging for food, with relation to edible cities and paths of travel for people and animals.

Previous psychogeography posts: One Block Radius and Awesome Outsider Cartography
posted by filthy light thief (24 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
If you're not sure where to start, just dive in and start poking around. Some posts are really long, citing a variety of books and articles, while others are simple collections of pictures taken in the latest cryptoforest outing.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:56 PM on January 12, 2011

In Seattle, my backyard is up against this - the Cheasty Greenspace, a mostly feral forest that the city is maintaining. There are a couple of trails through it that I've walked a few times, and it's almost magical to think of this untamed piece of wilderness RIGHT HERE.

Though it's not so magical for the cats; they have to be kept in due to the coyotes.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:25 PM on January 12, 2011

This is wonderful. Cheers.
posted by dng at 1:31 PM on January 12, 2011

Best post of the decade (past and future). thanks.
posted by - at 1:35 PM on January 12, 2011

See also: Involuntary parks (the canonical example being the area around Chernobyl).
posted by Kattullus at 1:36 PM on January 12, 2011

Very good post. I've always liked areas (called Cryptoforests, apparently) where nature and the city intersect in totally unplanned, and chaotic ways. The shitty little town I live in currently has a lot of them, mostly due to a slumping economy and poor urban planning.
posted by codacorolla at 1:37 PM on January 12, 2011

Excellent post! I've always dreamed it might be possible to live a Thoreau-like existence in a log cabin built the median strip of a superhighway: unbroken miles of forest, a hundred yards wide.
posted by steef at 1:45 PM on January 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

If a tree falls in a cryptoforest, is it unappreciated?
posted by Kabanos at 1:52 PM on January 12, 2011

I remember walking along a strip of land that was clearcut for a line of high-power electric pylons. On both sides of this relatively bare strip stood the forest. Here and there, small bushes and shrubs stood up in the cleared area -- forerunners of the process of succession that would return the land to forest again if it was left alone. It takes a lot of energy and effort to keep succession from happening. I looked at the trees and suddenly felt that they were rather sinister. Forests operate on a different time scale than us and are patient. Sure, we could keep cutting them down but they would keep growing back and, eventually, they would outlast us. I thought of the cities in South America that had disappeared back into the jungle growth within a generation or two of being abandoned. Yes, those trees were sinister and they were smiling wickedly at the puny human who walked along that temporary clearing.
posted by binturong at 1:59 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

This made me feel temptation to play Dwarf Fortress again.
Gonna go flagellate my back until that passes.
posted by Casimir at 2:13 PM on January 12, 2011

codacorolla: I've always liked areas (called Cryptoforests, apparently) where nature and the city intersect in totally unplanned, and chaotic ways. The shitty little town I live in currently has a lot of them, mostly due to a slumping economy and poor urban planning.

Greenery that no one has to maintain, thus no tax on the community. Poor planning, or best planning? Hmm.

ehbien: There's just no escaping Sarah Palin

Don't worry, it's insightful commentary on "the presence of bears as an ethical challenge for humans to consider themselves as part of nature instead of outside it." (But it is talking about Palin's reality show, which still kills me a bit inside.)
posted by filthy light thief at 2:16 PM on January 12, 2011

Scaremonger cival servants are already crying wolf: your toddler may be the next dinner for the big bad wolf. Better eaten by a wolf than crashed into by a car (an event more probably by at least 1000%) I'd say.

With 42,000 automobile fatalities a year in the US alone, that's what? 2,000 toddlers eaten by wolves? I'm interested in your reacties to this shocking statistic.

(If 100% more is twice as much, is 1000% more then 20 times as much?)
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:30 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

What did I just read.
posted by nzero at 2:32 PM on January 12, 2011

1000% more would be only 11 times as much. More like 3800 toddlers eaten by wolves.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:14 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

steef: I've always dreamed it might be possible to live a Thoreau-like existence in a log cabin built the median strip of a superhighway: unbroken miles of forest, a hundred yards wide.

... and full of bears and panthers, and "some even of the hunter race" that has not yet been ‘civilized off the face of the earth’.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:29 PM on January 12, 2011

In the midst of a project to cover a museum with broken mirrors and bottles, I had to move our working studio to a larger space where we could lay out the 3x5 foot concrete panels that were the base for our mosaic in a broader array, to properly render the larger elements of the design. We found a cheap and enormous space in a building on the sprawling campus of the old Crown Cork & Seal complex, an urban spelunking wonderland with dozens of buildings on many, many acres in Greektown.

The buildings are massive monuments to the age of big industry in Baltimore, full of enough rust, flaking paint, and cast-off artifacts to fill out a hundred portfolios for aspiring photographers. Behind my workbench, a huge steel door on a slider was welded in place, but I could hear sounds coming from there, and see light under the door. At the end of our grant, we finished off the mosaic at the museum, packed our tools and supplies away to wait until the next grant came along, and cleared out the studio.

On our last day, I swept out the last glittering shards of stained glass, mixed in with sand and bits of dried mortar, shook them out into a dumpster, gathered up the troops, and we went trespassing, to see just what was out there.

It took a while to find the other side of the door behind my workbench, and it was a shock, knowing that there'd been a room there as big as a football field, filled with birds settling in to an unexpected sanctuary. Even better, we found our way to the rooftops, where a whole forest was taking over, the Ailanthus spinning roots into the masonry to reach for every little bit of lovely rich corruption. Like anarchist versions of Hundertwasser's tree tenants, a microscopic forest was taking shape up there, squatting in the low skyline of East Baltimore, where everything else is worn out and paved.

I'd known this imaginary place from my childhood, the deep forest of the in-between. In Scaggsville, the bulldozers ran nonstop, tearing down the raw forest and evicting whole flocks of cardinals to build developments named "Cardinal Forest," and I watched the woods and the farms fall throughout my youth, all but for one place. In the cloverleaf where Maryland Route 216 connects to the thundering artery of I-95, eight perfect islands fell back to earth.

Four sylvan circles, wrapped in grey concrete loops, sat inside four gentle arcs that define four islands of green shaped like the collar on a fancy shirt. No one ever went there, no one except me, and I'd climb through a hole in the fence at the end of Scaggsville Road where it had been lopped off in 1970 to build the highway, scramble down a steep incline, then dart across the exit ramps and into places so isolated that it suited me to pretend they were faraway planets.

The dead stretch of road left cut off there still crossed two of the inner circles, a stretch of grey with intact yellow stripes, and in the southernmost of the circular islands, the trees were thick enough that you could sit on the striped centerlines with a book and read, unseen by everyone except in the briefest of flashes. No one ever bothered me, and though there was evidence that other people had come through, I never once encountered another person while I was playing there, which made me feel both inconsolably lonesome and wonderfully distinct and original at once.

The world as we know it ended hundreds of years ago, I'd think to myself, slouching luxuriously on the pavement in the fading summer sunlight with a careworn copy of The Martian Chronicles in my hand, and the world was never so beautiful.

I'd lie back, listening to the catbirds and the robins in the trees, singing over the rising and falling droning music of endless traffic, and there was nothing else but unbroken forest in every direction, crashing through the concrete and driving great shaggy trunks through the faux-colonials of Cardinal Forest, turning back the clock and returning the land to its ancestral masters. When the huge lamps would come on at dusk, huge four-point mercury vapor candelabras standing on tall, tapered cor-ten steel posts, the blue-grey light would ruin everything, so I'd pack up my things and head for home.

There's always tomorrow.
posted by sonascope at 3:42 PM on January 12, 2011 [22 favorites]

sonascope: that factory you mentioned wouldn't happen to be within eye-sight distance of the Natty Boh tower in Canton would it? I have friends who live in the new town homes right across the abandoned lot, and you can see trees growing on top of a factory across there.
posted by codacorolla at 3:53 PM on January 12, 2011

This reminds me of a sinister bamboo grove in my childhood. Our street at that time ended in a vacant lot, occupied by wild raspberry canes and a large bamboo grove that was extremely dark inside, even in broad daylight. The culms grew close together and blocked the light. We kids dared each other to go in and rumored that someone had died in there, perhaps in association with the abandoned bathtub in the middle of the grove.

Later developers cut down the bamboo and built five nearly identical and soulless Colonial homes at the end of the street.
posted by bad grammar at 3:57 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

codacorolla: That would be the place.
posted by sonascope at 4:18 PM on January 12, 2011

This is the one in my neighborhood: Addicks Reservoir. I go walking there almost every week. Deer, raccoons, possums, skunks, are usually visible. The four species of poisonous snakes are usually invisible. At night there are hundreds of bats.
posted by bukvich at 4:24 PM on January 12, 2011

How about ancient cryptoforests? I was amazed to find out that the trees on the cliffs around Niagara Falls were considered the oldest untouched Eastern Forest areas. Growing out of crevices in the rocks, the trees are small, and don't look hundreds of years old.
posted by acrasis at 4:33 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

sonascope's comment really nails one of the amazing things about Baltimore (and the more I'm there the fewer amazing things there are): the way that the old and the new intermingle. You have million dollar condos next to decaying factory buildings with sunlight and trees breaking through the concrete.
posted by codacorolla at 6:35 PM on January 12, 2011

What comes back after the logging stops. What lurks in the uncultivated corners of the cemetery. What grew up where the old dump was abandoned. Wild raspberries. Mint. Shaggy mane and lobster mushrooms. Chanterelles. Ramps. Wild asparagus. Fox. Pine marten. Beaver. Snowshoe hares. Blue herons. Leopard frogs. Spring peepers. Ruby Meadowhawk dragonflies. Pileated woodpeckers. Barn owls.
posted by RedEmma at 1:22 PM on January 13, 2011

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