Essays Archive

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.
April, 2018

17 April 2018

Trees are Breath
Andreas Weber, Berlin

In the last days, with the air finally above the freezing point, and the grey silhouettes of the barren twigs dripping with fine silvery moisture against the faint morning light, I have been drawn into the forest. Every morning, I unlocked the chain securing my bike to a low metal...

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14 April 2018

A Sense of Wonder: The Missing Ingredient to a Long-Term Value for Nature?
Bronwyn Cumbo, Sydney Marthe Derkzen, Amsterdam

“For the child….it is not half as important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.” —Rachel Carson, 1965, p.58. The natural world...

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9 April 2018

Westward Wandering and Wondering
Jennifer Baljko, Barcelona

Thinking of home turf as we start a new phase of the Bangkok-Barcelona journey My mind always wanders forward. Even as my footsteps ground me in the present, I can’t help but wonder what lies ahead. We’re still technically in Asia, on the side of the line that divides Turkey...

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5 April 2018

Cities of Difference, Part II: Shifting Identities, Diverse Communities and Urban Nature
Julian Agyeman, Medford Laura Shillington, Managua & Montreal

This article was adapted from an article by Julian Agyeman [i]. Cities of difference are places where we are “in the presence of otherness”, as Sennett puts it—namely, our increasingly different, diverse, and culturally heterogeneous urban areas.[ii] Difference is, in my opinion, a more expansive and useful concept than diversity, which...

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2 April 2018

What’s Under the Car Hood? Looks Like Good News for Stormwater Pollution
Emily Wier, New York

The literature has established that electric vehicles are better for the environment—they produce less pollution than a conventional gas vehicle, regardless of the electricity mix used to fuel the vehicle.[1] They are more efficient, and in part thanks to many state policies[2]—the costs of ownership are decreasing and the vehicles are...

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March, 2018

29 March 2018

The Sheffield Street Tree Massacre: Notes from a Public-Private Partnership Gone Wrong
Christine Thuring, Sheffield

Often described as Europe’s greenest city, Sheffield is reputed to have more trees per capita than any other, with over 100,000 trees spread across parks and open spaces, 10.4 percent woodland by area, and approximately 36,000 street trees. However, a public-private partnership (P3) is dramatically altering Sheffield’s urban forest. The various particulars of the...

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26 March 2018

Protecting More with Less: More Nature in Cities with the Science of Strategic Conservation
Will Allen, Chapel Hill

Not long ago, cities and nature were usually seen as two separate things. Thankfully nature and cities are now being acknowledged as inextricably linked, and an exciting and expanding movement is emerging to invest in green infrastructure that helps make cities sustainable, resilient, and livable. Billions are spent annually around...

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24 March 2018

Socioecological Science is Failing Cities. The Humanities Can Help
Diane Pataki, Salt Lake City

“Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.” — Max Planck As a graduate student, I was often assigned to read the foundational work of...

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20 March 2018

In the Built Environment of Cities, Urban Ecology and Technology Must Walk Together
Camilo Ordóñez, Toronto James Steenberg, Toronto Amber Grant, Toronto

A recent discussion at The Nature of Cities talked about the most important things to know for an urban ecologist. For many, this was that humans are part of nature. But the many influences of humans on urban nature is so complex, that some aspects of this relationship are better understood...

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18 March 2018

Photo Essay: Finding Refuge in City Parks
Jennifer Baljko, Barcelona

We walked many treeless roads from Bangkok, Thailand to Samsun, Turkey. On our weekly rest days, when we rambled into cities and found a hotel room where we could sleep in a bed and hang our laundry, we sought out those quiet giants. This walk we’re on is shifting our...

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14 March 2018

Conquering the Sea: Expanding Turkey’s Black Sea coast with stones, apartments, and promenades
Jennifer Baljko, Barcelona

There’s another one. And another one. And another one. And, yes, there’s one more over there…and over there. I’m noticing the many new apartment buildings dotting—defining—Turkey’s Black Sea coastline. From Hopa to Samsun, and nearly all of the cities and towns in between the 500-kilometer stretch we have done so...

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11 March 2018

#watchingthericegrow
Brian McGrath, New York City

#watchingthericegrow is a hashtag I created on Instagram on 4 August 2016, tagging a photo I took from a bicycle survey along a winding rural road on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, Thailand. The initial framing marked a memorable composition at the center of a territorial survey that would spiral...

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8 March 2018

The Nature of Public Art: Connecting People to People and People to Nature
Georgina Avlonitis, Cape Town

Mankind may have left the savannah some million years ago, but the savannah never quite left us. It makes sense that since we co-evolved with nature, our need for it is hardwired into our brains and our genes. For millennia, the nature we’ve had access to has influenced everything from...

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5 March 2018

Nature Atlas: Exploring Multi-scalar Methods for Mapping Urban Environments
Ruchika Lodha, New York Timon McPhearson, New York

Edward O. Wilson popularized the concept Biophilia more than 30 years ago, in 1984, describing it as “the urge to affiliate with other life forms”. In short, Biophilia is a hypothesis that suggests the innate affinity of humans towards nature. We agree that humans possess the tendency to seek connections...

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2 March 2018

How One Mostly Unknown Man Shaped Environmental Policy for a Nation: A Tribute to Robert Semple, Jr.
Adrian Benepe, New York City

On 11 January 2018, a party was held to celebrate the retirement after 54 years of a man many people have never heard of, whose words, published in anonymity, have helped shape the United States’ environment and environmental policy for decades. Robert B. Semple, Jr. worked for the New York...

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February, 2018

26 February 2018

The Loneliness of the Protected Area: Biocultural Connectivity, Social Media, and Living in Harmony with Nature
William Dunbar, Tokyo

On social media and connectivity Like a lot of people, my new year’s resolution last year was to stop spending so much time on Facebook and other social media. And like probably a lot of people, I completely failed. So this year, I made a different resolution. This year I...

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23 February 2018

Rethinking Cities as Vulnerable Ecosystems
Darin Wahl, Portland Vivek Shandas, Portland

Cities are dynamic complex adaptive systems. They are a network of systems interacting and exchanging flows of energy, information, and materials, held together by a set of rules, based on millennia of ecological change and more recent governance structures. Dominant narratives and practices describe cities as human systems that are...

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20 February 2018

Island Life: Urban Habitats as Theaters for the Evolution of Biodiversity
Steven Handel, New Brunswick

Island archipelagos are more than faraway places with strange sounding names. They lie at the heart of our understanding of ecology and evolution. Since Darwin’s stop at the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, biologists keep turning towards islands for an understanding of biodiversity and the processes that drive adaptation. The famed...

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17 February 2018

Three Case Studies in Re-wilding: Models and Methods for Other Cities to Consider
Kevin Sloan, Dallas-Fort Worth

Re-wilding is a new area of interest in landscape architecture concerned with making landscapes that are as close to the original ecology of a place as possible. Not limited to only planting installations, re-wilded landscapes can also exist to attract, reconstitute and/or re-introduce wildlife to heighten biodiversity. Given the emergence...

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14 February 2018

Searching for Sustainable Lawns in Sweden
Maria E Ignatieva, Perth

The manual Lawn Alternatives in Sweden. From Theory to Practice shared the results of the transdisciplinary project “Lawn as ecological and cultural phenomenon: Searching for sustainable lawns in Sweden” (2013-2016, funded by FORMAS) and suggested practical implementation—guidelines for possible alternatives to existing contemporary lawns in Sweden. This essay excerpts some...

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