The current drought in Australia raises questions about the extent to which urban life depends on physical forces that come with their own dynamics and eccentric rhythms. I suggest that currently deepening understandings of the inherent volatility of earth processes might help us appreciate the accomplishments of those who have stayed in place for hundreds or thousands of years: peoples whose ‘nomadic’ journeys through deep time have taken them through major bio‐ or geo‐physical transformations in their environments. In this way, we might learn to recognize how most urban or settled life inherits terrains whose irregularities and extremes have been softened by the efforts of these prior inhabitants. In a world where we can expect major environmental changes to induce new waves of estrangement and displacement, I ask whether a sense of the immeasurable debt which we owe to those people who came before us might help inspire the kind of cosmopolitan sensibilities we would hope for.
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