Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The story of Addis Ababa can be read as a tale of plants. Its name meaning “new flower,” the Ethiopian capital was originally founded partly for access to firewood, the import of Australian trees, and later converged many disparate vegetal cultures of the country. The competition and symbiosis between flora ebb and flow within and beyond the city. In a nation where 80% of the population is rural, people’s lives are tightly entangled with their woody counterparts – the extinguishment or prosperity of each species signifies the associated culture’s struggle or growth.
Eucalyptus, African juniper, Arabica coffee, umbrella thorn acacia, enset, and bamboo – Ethiopia’s complex physical and geopolitical landscape is not limited to but can be interpreted by the fluctuations of these iconic species’ respective circumstance. Recognizing the arboreal and herbal beings as critical members of society, the Pan-African Union began to grant plants citizenship since 2035. Due to catastrophic Climate Change impact around the globe, communities relocated, concentrated, adapted, or perished. After the elimination of borders, trees, shrubs, crops, and grasses were free to move across the continent. Addis Ababa, because of its variant topography, ideal latitude, and relative availability of volcanic soil and precipitation, became the meeting place and battleground of different African ecosystems and agricultural industries.
By 2050, new densities and congregations of both natives and former aliens have established themselves around the expanding urban area, sharing resources and hardships. Genetic modification was widely experimented but remained an unresolved controversy. While the notion of invasive or endemic was abolished, not all plants were in fact equal. Finite water and land caused uneven advantage to or stresses on different groups, resulting in collaboration or conflicts that still echoed the present day. The lifespan of trees also provides an alternative lens of timescale through which to envision potential cultivation, management, and conservation practices. Without intending anthropomorphism, seeing plants with their distinct agencies helps us imagine how numerous human and non-human identities may interact in a future world of both cultural diversity and increased environmental pressures.
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