There’s an oil drill in my neighborhood. It’s been there for decades now, poorly hidden behind a vine-covered wall and some ugly topiary shrubs. In order to extract whatever oil remains these days, the drillsite owners have to pump a toxic cocktail of chemicals into a spiderweb of channels beneath my neighborhood--beneath homes, churches, and elementary schools. The chemicals find their way into the air and soil and water, and they make people sick. Nosebleeds or respiratory problems are common, and cancer and miscarriage rates are unusually high. Folks have banded together to protest this injustice, but response from the city has largely been indifferent. Progress is happening, but it’s been slow.
I seek refuge from this urban sprawl at the Natural History Museum’s Nature Garden, just down the street. When I’m there, it feels like I’ve stepped backwards in time.The garden is filled with endemic trees and plants and insects, the kind that were common in Los Angeles before we paved it over. I sometimes wonder about what will happen in the future once the drill site is gone. I imagine the vacant lot being rewilded with native plants, an act of penance of sorts for what happened there. That’s my hope, anyway.
This post originally appeared in the "My Piece of Earth" series in Paper Earth Project, an online publication about art and conservation. View the whole series at https://www.paperearth.org/