Essays Archive

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.
April, 2019

15 April 2019

Proposals for the Environment and the Future of Cities
Kevin Sloan, Dallas-Fort Worth

A Brief History of Climate Change Issued in November of 2018 by a collection of 13 government agencies known as the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the environmental assessments of The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) present a deeply disturbing forecast and polarizing confrontation to most anyone reading the report....

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4 April 2019

From Wet Feet to a Tiny Food Forest—How These 4th Graders Transformed Their Schoolyard into a Tiny Food Forest
Marthe Derkzen, Amsterdam

A Tiny Food Forest? As in, an edible forest? At school? Driven and designed by a bunch of 4thgraders? Absolutely. This project became a reality thanks to a dedicated team of enthusiastic individuals (children, teachers, directors, policymakers, nature educators, parents, neighbors, designers, and scientists) in the mid-sized town of Ede...

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March, 2019

29 March 2019

Cities’ Quality of Life, Health, and Sustainability Are Defined by Access to Nearby Parks
Adrian Benepe, New York Benita Hussain, New York

Since the mid-nineteenth century, parks have always been deeply intertwined in the modern identities of cities. In the U.S., Central Park is less a feature of New York than it is a key component of its essential character, much as Prospect Park once similarly defined the emerging city of Brooklyn,...

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24 March 2019

Vegetating Tall Buildings
Gary Grant, London

In 1883, a rooftop garden theatre opened in New York City. The idea was to escape the city summer heat, whilst enjoying some evening entertainment, without actually leaving NYC. A decade later, the New York Times announced that, “New York is fast becoming a city of roof gardens”. In 1935,...

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17 March 2019

From Biocultural Diversity to a Nature-Culture Alliance
William Dunbar, Tokyo

Since I was invited to start writing about biocultural diversity for The Nature of Cities in 2015, there have been a number of developments in both policymaking processes related to biocultural diversity and, recently, to the concept itself. Some of these developments have happened around the Fourteenth Meeting of the...

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10 March 2019

Mr. Rogers, Tikkun Olam, and Thinking Like a Mountain
Keith Tidball, Ithaca

I recently watched the much acclaimed two-hour documentary on the life and accomplishments of Fred Rogers, the beloved host of the popular children’s TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”. The film reflected on Rogers’ legacy of kindness and the profound and lasting effect his innovative approach to television had on millions...

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6 March 2019

Whose Park? The Forty-Year Fight for Justice in ‘The People’s Park’ under Copenhagen’s Evolving Urban Managerialism
Rebecca Rutt, Copenhagen Stephanie Loveless, Barcelona

In the last three decades, Copenhagen has shifted from an obscure Nordic capital to a leading global city. It is known for progressive environmental policies, an enviable public transportation and cycling network, and numerous public green spaces, earning it the European Green Capital Award in 2014. Moreover, Denmark is repeatedly...

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February, 2019

27 February 2019

Mosaic Management: The Missing Ingredient for Biodiversity Innovation in Urban Greenspace Design
Stuart Connop, London Caroline Nash, London

With a new stream of studies adding to evidence revealing disturbing declines in global populations of insects (Hallmann et al. 2018, Lister & Garcia 2018, Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys 2019) and reports of an ecological catastrophe on the scale of a sixth mass extinction, there is an urgent need to do more...

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21 February 2019

Historic Urban Public Parks: Are They Being Incrementally Spoiled?
Steve Brown, Sydney

Urban public parks are under constant siege; and the issue is an increasingly global matter. Typically created as public recreation spaces and local community green spaces within cities and towns, urban parks are increasingly impacted by incremental changes to original designs brought on by, for example, overshadowing by tall buildings,...

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10 February 2019

The Beaver, Cottonwoods, and Lucy: Preservation Is Not Enough
Mike Houck, Portland

In a previous essay, Size Doesn’t Matter, Really, I made the case that even small scraps of urban green, such as Portland’s one-square-block Tanner Springs Nature Park can provide significant benefits to a community. Located in the city’s intensely developed Pearl District, Tanner Springs provides access to nature to thousands...

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5 February 2019

Disaster Recovery? Yet Another Missed Opportunity to Build Back Better, Inclusive, and Sustainable Cities
Fadi Hamdan, Beirut

Throughout the world, cities are undergoing significant damage and destruction due to a combination of: (1) natural hazards increasing in severity, frequency and losses due to climate change (Figures 1); and (2) increased exposure, vulnerability and losses due to increasing population and economic concentration due to unplanned rapid urbanization (Figure...

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2 February 2019

The Winter City: Ecologies of Snow, Ice and Cold
Laura Shillington, Managua & Montreal

But it was all The Fear of Snow —Leonard Cohen, The Best The city in winter invokes diverse imaginaries—from romantic, beautiful, and magical to cold, dark, dirty, and hazardous. A quick Google search reproduces the first three imaginaries: romantic, beautiful, and magical (Figure 1). Yet winter is often depicted as...

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January, 2019

28 January 2019

Orchards from the Forest: A Local Solution to Extinction
Alessandra Pavesi, São Paulo

The destruction of Cerrado (Brazilian Savannah), the second largest biome in Brazil after Amazonia, has become the main concern of urban collectives focused on reintroducing elements of this important ecosystem in city landscapes and in the imaginations of city dwellers. In this essay, we look at urban farming for Cerradoregeneration from...

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24 January 2019

Rebuilding Bosnia and Herzegovina Cities
Jennifer Baljko, Barcelona

There is a sadness in Bosnia and Herzegovina that will follow me for a long time. Of all the wonders and troubles we have witnessed during our walk through Asia and Europe, the visible signs of this country’s post-war hardships break my heart the most in this multi-year journey. Our...

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18 January 2019

Rethinking Cities in Arid Environments for the 21st Century
Huda Shaka, Dubai

Arid cities around the world Over two years ago, my colleagues and I at Arup began a research project focused on the topic of planning and designing cities in arid environments. We were initially interested in exploring the most relevant practices and innovations for cities in the Middle East, but...

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13 January 2019

Many Small Changes Cascade into Big Change
Leen Gorissen, Antwerp

How can cities accelerate transitions to sustainability? That was the central question in the collaborative EU-funded research project called ARTS, in which researchers, policy makers, citizens, artists, and entrepreneurs co-reflected on pathways to fast-forward urban sustainability. Upon the request of many urban changemakers, we translated the academic findings into an...

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11 January 2019

Nature in the City—An Urban Adventure
Stephanie Pincetl, Los Angeles

My husband went on his bicycle to get our Christmas standing rib roast (an extravagance of every few years) at the local artisanal butcher. The butcher is in the legendary Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, corner of 3rdand Fairfax. It remains relatively authentic despite the immense Disneyesque mall just adjacent...

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8 January 2019

The Planet’s Gift to Humans: Soil Uncovered
Chantal van Ham, Brussels

Soil is a unique living ecosystem that provides a wide range of services to people. It is the foundation of life on the planet, home to biodiversity, it regulates the water cycle, stores and filters water, is the basis for producing food and fuel, it facilitates the natural recycling of...

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3 January 2019

Nature Rebounding in the Peri-Urban Landscapes that the Industrial Revolution Left Behind: North West England’s Carbon Landscape
Janice Astbury, Manchester Joanne Tippett, Manchester

Less than an hour cycling out of central Manchester along the Bridgewater Canal takes you into a green and blue landscape. It only becomes clear that this is a post-industrial area when the infrastructure of a coalfield pithead rises up behind the trees. Further along the canal you encounter attractive...

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December, 2018

20 December 2018

A Transformative New Era for Landscape Conservation in Cities
Will Allen, Chapel Hill

When I started my career in land and water conservation almost 25 years ago, cities and nature were usually seen as two separate things. Many strategic conservation planning efforts focused on finding the best places to protect nature from people. But as we have learned from The Nature of Cities and...

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