“Just living is not enough…. one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower”
-Hans Christian Anderson
Since the beginning of time, mankind has left permanent marks on the planet. Ancient peoples cultivated wild plants and animals, and built great civilizations. Now, people live in almost every ecosystem on the planet- whether in the tundra, in forests, or on tropical islands. While cities clearly show peoples’ effect on the landscape, the world’s open and agricultural areas demonstrate our connection to the plants, animals, and features of the world around us.
In van Calraet’s animal portrait, the viewer might first think that this horse is out in the wilderness, content in his freedom and with the whole world at his hooves. But on closer inspection it becomes clear that his neighbors are domesticated cows, and while no fences are visible there appear to be buildings in the hazy distance. Organisms living together in an environment often have symbiotic relationships, and humans are an important part of this environment, even if they are not seen. In this case humans may have a mutually beneficial relationship with their livestock. Judging by the size of the horse he is well cared for; fed, watered, and brushed. He also seems to have plenty of space to roam, alongside the cows. In return perhaps he is ridden or hitched up to a cart or carriage now and again.
|Apart from farmland, people can also change ecosystems by bringing new species to far away places. Brown trout, like the ones in Russell’s The Day’s Catch, are native to Europe, from northern Norway and Russia all the way to the Atlas Mountains in Northern Africa. Since the 19th century, humans have introduced brown trout species to Australia, India, and North and South America, mainly as a sport fish. Some kinds of trout live exclusively in freshwater streams and lakes, while others live most of their lives in the ocean and only travel to freshwater areas to spawn.
While not inherently dangerous, introducing new species to an area can put pressure on an ecosystem. In some places, like Australia, brown trout endanger other fish by directly competing for food and other resources. In Canada on the other hand, trout populations are threatened by yet another newcomer, an alga commonly known as ‘rock snot’. In each of these cases, anglers and local inhabitants work together to re-balance the ecosystem and remove hazards to native populations.