The cicadas buzzed in the evening. On my mid-summer runs through the Ohio farmlands, skunks, deer, groundhogs, and raccoons often surprised me. Back in Chicago now for two weeks, I’ve been bouncing from one downtown meeting to the next. Perched in a 20th floor conference room during one such session, I gazed out at the crowded city view. Then it hit me. The source of the gently gnawing discontent I’ve experienced since returning: I miss nature. While I’m enthusiastic about new public features like the River Walk, I’m struck by how little emphasis in new developments is being paid to the street-level experience. Density without amenity will be the city’s undoing. In our classroom building at Oberlin, the most popular place to sit and work was in the lobby near the plants and solar-powered fountain, an area flooded with natural light. Humans are biophilic creatures. Yet so often meaningful green features are omitted from our constructed environments, inside and out. My readjustment discontent aside, these compromises will haunt us. Looking out during the meeting, I felt awe and alienation; the hum of the air conditioning no replacement for the loud throb of fecundity that would accompany my end-of-the-day commute home.
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