From the wooded summit in the Grunewald, a large expanse of the flat East European plain stretches out to a hazy horizon. The glitzy new landmarks of post-Cold War Berlin stud the distant panorama; the needle-like TV tower of Alexanderplatz is slightly farther away. Teufelsberg, at a height of 400 feet, is comfortably the highest spot in Berlin. An expansive and verdant peak, it might easily be mistaken for a geological feature with a history stretching back millions of years, or, perhaps, as the remnant of moraine shunted here by some primeval ice sheet.
Yet Teufelsberg is barely half a century old.
In this amazing piece, Stephen Graham, professor at the Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, lays out the human arrogance of replacing million-year-old geology with the 59 billion tons of material that we create yearly with mining, construction, agriculture and waste. Not only are we changing the landscape of our planet, but in our short existence on this planet, we are deliberately and radically changing the ground on which we walk and live. St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy See of the Roman Catholic Church, is built on a pagan city. “The surface of contemporary Rome, which rests upon many ancient worlds,” Graham writes, “has been built up by about 50 feet since the founding of the Roman Empire two thousand years ago.” Read his piece, and you will find out how small and precious this planet of our is.