Meet the Author:
Philip Silva,  New York City

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Philip Silva

Philip Silva

TreeKit, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY USA

Philip Silva is a Ph.D. student in Natural Resources at Cornell University. His work focuses on informal adult learning and participatory action research in social-ecological systems. For the past four years, Silva taught courses in urban forestry, environmental history, and design at The New School. In 2011, Silva was one of 25 national leaders convened by the US Forest Service to participate in the “Vibrant Cities and Urban Forests” task force. He has worked with some of NYC’s leading environmental organizations, including Sustainable South Bronx, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Just Food, and the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance. Philip is a recipient of the 2010 iLAB Residency of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature, and Dance (“iLAND”) and a 2009 Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program. He currently serves as co-founder and co-director of TreeKIT, an initiative to measure, map, and collaboratively manage urban forests. A native of Newark, NJ with a graduate degree in urban policy analysis, Silva is dedicated to exploring nature in all of its urban expressions.

January 14, 2015
Attractive “Task Cards” invite volunteer gardeners to track the time they donate for different activities—making it easy for a coordinator to tally up all of the volunteer time that goes into a garden each year. Photo: Philip Silva

Community gardeners and urban farmers across North America are using an innovative research toolkit developed in New York City to measure and track the impacts of their work. A small group of dedicated gardeners created the toolkit in mid-2013 as part of the Five Borough Farm initiative of the Design Trust for Public Space, a … Continue reading Making the Measure: A Toolkit for Tracking the Outcomes of Community Gardens and Urban Farms 

January 5, 2014
Trees mapped by volunteers at the Gowanus Canal Conservancy in Brooklyn, working with TreeKIT. Source: TreeKIT

Local governments planted millions of young trees on urban streets throughout the United States during the first decade of the 21st Century. From Los Angeles to New York, large cities made prodigious investments in urban reforestation and wrote off the expense as a relatively thrifty way of dealing with some deep-rooted and long-lasting environmental problems … Continue reading Three M’s for Empowering Volunteer Urban Foresters: Mobilizing, Mapping, and Monitoring

June 9, 2013
Photo: Philip Silva

In cities throughout the United States, thousands of people are gearing up for another busy summer of growing vegetables in community gardens and caring for street trees planted along the sidewalk’s edge. Self-organized, volunteer-based, and focused on improving both communities and the environment, these “civic ecology” practices often pick up where municipal governments and larger … Continue reading Street Art, Slow Work, and Stories: Three Values for Civic Ecology Practices in Cities

January 9, 2013

My second contribution to the Nature of Cities blog was scheduled to fall around that awkward moment at the start of the New Year when productivity is at its lowest ebb. Instead of sitting down to the task at my own snow-bound desk in upstate New York, I find myself seated on a plastic chair … Continue reading From Banlieue to Biophilia: Thinking About Nature as a Basis for Urban Design

July 31, 2012

Cities have long been seen as the antithesis – or, at least, the absence – of nature. Yet in recent years, environmentalists started rethinking their long-held prejudices against urban areas. The rise of neighborhood-based environmental justice movements, beginning in the 1980’s, forced us to confront the human side of pollution and its relationship to urban poverty. … Continue reading Cyborgs, Sewers, and the Sensing City