A Glimpse of Paradise
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN SPAIN
ELEPHANTS, tigers, and gazelles do not usually roam around abandoned mines. Surface mining has a reputation for leaving a landscape scarred and desolate, not suitable as a refuge for exotic animals.
But in the Cabárceno Nature Park in the Spanish province of Cantabria, a unique experiment has shown that even the most unpromising sites can be beautified and converted into a virtual paradise.
For some 3,000 years, Cabárceno was renowned for its high-quality iron ore. Celtic miners discovered that the ferric oxide, found naturally in the area, could easily be converted into iron—an indispensable metal for Celtic tools and weapons. For many centuries the Romans also exploited the mineral deposits.
Since the ore was found near the surface, the ancient miners laboriously removed the rich granular deposits with picks and shovels, leaving behind hundreds of rocky turrets that did not contain any ore. They thus inadvertently created striking karstlike scenery, usually associated with limestone outcrops that are carved by water rather than the human hand.
With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, however, modern machinery was used to demolish what was left of the mountain in order to recover the precious ore that still remained. Finally, when the bulldozers had extracted all the mineral wealth that the mountain had to offer, the mine closed its gates in 1989. Only a few rusty machines at the entrance of Cabárceno testify to its industrial heritage.
From Moonscape to Landscape
Undoubtedly, it is easier to ruin a landscape than to restore it. Undeterred, the local authorities of Cantabria took up the challenge of creating a zoological park out of a landscape that looked more like a moonscape.
Their success depended principally on the earth’s natural ability, when given sufficient respite, to heal itself. In addition, the landscapers worked hard to repair the damage done by centuries of neglect and exploitation. Within a couple of years, thousands of trees were planted, the topsoil was replaced, ugly potholes were converted into attractive lakes, and old railroad tracks became footpaths. Finally, specially selected animals were placed in large enclosures to complete the transformation.
The 600,000 yearly visitors to the Cabárceno Nature Park evidently feel that the effort is worthwhile. Not a few have exclaimed excitedly: “This is a paradise!” The word “paradise” is well chosen, since it was used by ancient Persians and Greeks to refer to a large, well-watered park of unspoiled beauty where animals could graze in relative freedom.
At a time when so many natural landscapes have been ruined, it is refreshing to visit a place where beauty has been restored and embellished. Moreover, what has been achieved on a small scale at Cabárceno well illustrates what this marvelous earth is capable of.
Brown bears now climb cliffs once chiseled out by Roman miners. Elephants and gazelles graze on lush pastures that carpet an area formerly stripped bare by excavators. Young tigers romp around granite outcrops sculptured unwittingly by Celtic picks and shovels. And this transformation was achieved within a few short years!
The Bible promises that one day, in harmony with God’s original purpose for mankind, the whole earth will be a paradise. (Genesis 1:28; 2:15; Isaiah 65:17, 22-25; Luke 23:42, 43) Nature parks such as Cabárceno not only give us a glimpse of what such a future paradise will be like but also remind us that such a promise is well within the power of our Creator.
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[Picture Credit Line on page 22]
All pictures: Parque de la Naturaleza de Cabárceno