“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
— George Santayana
“I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive.”
— Kurt Vonnegut
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
— William Faulkner (in Requiem for a Nun)
Those of you who follow Make Lists, Not War may remember the four-part Timeline of Human History that I published a while back. In recognition that many of us are so busy that we don’t have time to go through the hundreds of events that make up the Timeline, I have created an abridged version of sorts. The new, shorter list is called The 55 Most Important Events in Human History and it was created by compiling a number of “Most Important Events in Human History” and “Events that Changed the World” lists that I have collected. It begins in Mesopotamia in 4500 BCE and ends in New York City on September 11, 2001. In between are: the birth of nations; the rise and fall of vast empires; the founding of religions; the winning of battles and the losing of wars; the invention of new technologies; and the discovery of new scientific laws and theories, among other things. I hope you enjoy it.
“What is this you call property? It cannot be the earth, for the land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beasts, birds, fish and all men. The woods, the streams, everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all. How can one man say it belongs only to him?” – Chief Massasoit, Wampanoags of Massachusetts.
“La propriété, c’est le vol!” (“Property is theft!“)
– Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.
My backyard in May, with the native azaleas in bloom.
When my wife Mary and I bought a house on 7,000+ square feet of land in a small city in Eastern Massachusetts in July 2001, I didn’t feel like I owned the land (actually, I didn’t – the bank owned it then and will continue to do so for the next 20 years or so). Instead, I imagined that I’d been asked to act as steward of this tiny portion of the earth for a period of time. So I researched the native plants that grew in this area before non-native invasive species took over, in environments similar to my back yard, found places where I could buy them legally and planted them. I wanted to recreate, to the extent I could, the diverse community of interdependent living things that had evolved before human interventions had disrupted nature’s equilibrium. You can see some of the results of the botanical portion of the experiment here and here. I can’t say that I have succeeded (yet) in reaching my goal (keeping the invasive non-natives at bay is a challenge), but there have been some positive signs. One of the benefits of creating a semi-wild space with native plants is that wildlife visits and occasionally comes to live here. I’ve been keeping a list (surprised?) of the wild animal visitors we’ve seen in the first dozen years of our stewardship (vertebrates only for now). Most are common visitors to urban and suburban backyards, but a few may be surprises. (I’d love to hear about what wildlife others have seen.) Here is the list, organized using the biological classification system: