Today at a Borderwork(s) lunch gathering with Macrina Cardenas Alarcon (of the Mexican Solidarity Network), one of the professors of the Humanities Lab mentioned that on the North Korea/South Korea border lies some of the most rare and beautiful wildlife in the world.
An article online at the Bankok Post explains:
“The DMZ is a buffer strip extending for two kilometres (1.25 miles) each side of the actual borderline between North and South. But the area is also home to animals including musk deer, elk, wild boar, and rare birds.
The edge of the zone is fenced and heavily fortified but the DMZ itself has been largely untouched by humankind since the 1950-53 war.
As a result, it is home to some 2,716 species of plants and animals including many endangered species, the ministry said in a statement.
(“S. Korea seeks wildlife listing for tense border area”. Bankok Post. 23 September 2011. http://www.bangkokpost.com/lite/news/258006/s-korea-seeks-wildlife-listing-for-tense-border-area)
This statement intrigued me. I found it somewhat baffling that a border that has been the location of so much violence and a cause of grief and despair to so many people could be one of the world’s most precious wildlife resources. However, as my thesis director Robin Kirk pointed out, this situation is replicated in uninhabited borderlands all over the world. In fact, this summer in N. Ireland, our group of a handful of Duke students climbed Cave Hill, one of the small country’s most prized places of natural beauty. As in the case of the North Korea/South Korea border, the reason that Cave Hill is so pristine is that is was largely unoccupied by the local people over a long period of time because of political struggles (in the case of Cave Hill, the area was a British army base).
I’m not sure how this aspect of borderlands will show up in my work, but I know that as I continue my reading and writing, I’ll be thinking about this possibility of finding beauty in even the most desolate of borders and keeping an eye out for additional examples.