Humans as a species have come a long way, climbing up the evolutionary chain with each new skill, and every new invention. Nestled in our concrete jungles and steel wilderness, nature now comes as a respite. The new millennia saw this cycle of creation and discovery with fresher eyes, and the concept of re-tribalisation emerged in classrooms worldwide. While we’re learning and re-learning our roots, there are some natural things we’ve forgotten that are actually man-made. Allow us to rekindle your memory!
A long, long time ago — scientists estimate about eight million years — the first citrus trees showed up on the face of this planet, in the foothills of the Himalayas. With changing climate, these fruits spread across southeast Asia and subsequently, the rest of the world. Lemons, as we know them today, are a result of interbreeding between naturally occurring citruses: a hybrid between a kind of bitter orange and citron.
It is generally accepted that the four naturally wild citrus trees — key lime, pomelo, citron and tangerine — are responsible for all other citrus variants, including oranges. So, the next time you feel like life gave you lemons, maybe you can find some respite in the fact that life isn't to blame!
Before climate change ran its course, Lake Mead — on the Arizona-Nevada border — used to be the largest man-made reservoirs in the world. Its early beginnings come from the Hoover Dam, built to manage the excess water from the Colorado river, which kept flooding the surrounding areas.
Still one of the largest lakes, this man-made wonder was no small feat. Lake Mead extends about 185 kilometres upstream, ranges from one to 16 kilometres in width, and has 885 kilometres of shoreline. The lake is the primary source of water for the surrounding states in the US, and also parts of Mexico.
This colourful canyon in the eponymous State Park, just a few hours southwest of Atlanta, Georgia, has been dubbed the “Little Grand Canyon.” It has a spot in the state’s ‘seven natural wonders’ list, but this wonder isn’t natural at all.
Poor farming practices and just under a century of time resulted in this man-made gorge. In the early 1800s, farmers began clearing the then-inexpensive land by felling native trees, which led to the erosion of the topsoil. This land saw a mix of plantations, small farms and sharecropping, which degraded it further. The small gullies that became prevalent by the 1850s are about 150-feet-deep today.
On the brighter side, the Providence Canyon today is an excellent spot for visitors to camp and hike along its various trails, which go both around the rim and to through the floor of the canyon. Geologists, too, visit the place to study the colourful, exposed sediments that reveal millions of years through the earth’s surface.
You know what they say about energy companies drilling into the earth? Well, say it again and maybe a little louder. This psychedelic wonder spewing boiling hot water at all times of the year might be a favourite for Burning Man connoisseurs, but its origins are hardly an original story.
In 1964, after an unsuccessful attempt at drilling a well to aid farming practices, a geothermal energy company drilled yet another well a few hundred feet from the first. Geothermal boiling water spewed out, but it wasn’t hot enough for their purposes. An attempt to re-seal the well failed and the Fly Geyser was formed.
Interestingly, the colourful cone of the geyser grows every year from the thermophilic algae, which feeds off the warm, moist environment and lends the geyser its unnatural hues.
These are the Frankenstein’s monster of bees. Back in 1957, a group of regular, harmless European honeybees were taken to Brazil to a lab near Rio Claro. The idea was to create a species of bees that would produce more honey. However, due to the change in temperature, the bees did little more than that.
In an attempt to fix this situation, a group of African honeybees were brought in to breed with their European counterparts to create a species that would breed in these warmer temperatures. The result? Killer bees. Thousands of theses hybrids escaped and spread through South and Central America, and subsequently, everywhere else.
The rest, as we know, is history.
MORNING GLORY POOL
Morning glories, bright and blue. So, why does the eponymous pool spew shades of yellow and green? Let us go back a little. The glorious Morning Glory Pool was a bright blue up until the 1960s, owing to bacteria that fed off the pool’s warm temperatures. But over the years, visitors dropped pennies, cans, and other trash into the pool, blocking some of the thermal vents and decreasing the temperature. As a result, sunlight was reflected differently off the pool and that's how it got its now-colourful yellow, red, green and blue rings.
This one is an odd-ball. While the vanilla orchid is definitely natural, it’s also only endemic to Mexico and the surrounding regions. As the plant was taken to different parts of the world, bees were unable to successfully pollinate them outside of their native climate.
This problem was solved by a 12-year-old slave who came up with a technique to hand-pollinate the vanilla plant successfully. As a result, vanilla could now be grown anywhere, and most of the vanilla beans that we find today are a result of this hand pollination technique.