Essays Archive

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.
April, 2024

3 April 2024

A tree on the side of a road
Fight Fire With Fire … and Standards With Standards ― Building blocks for nature
Gitty Korsuize, Utrecht

A biking lane should measure 4.20 meters at minimum in the city of Utrecht. Sidewalks need to be 1.20 meters wide to make sure pedestrians and a person in a wheelchair can pass each other. For each house we build we add 0.78 parking spaces in the public domain. In...

March, 2024

27 March 2024

A diagram of a sustainable development
Environmental, Social, and Governance Investing for Inclusive Cities
Fadi Hamdan, Athens

Background to the Sustainable Financing Gap Globally, challenges in making our cities resilient are multi-dimensional and are on the rise. According to the 2023 Sustainable Development Goals Report, over half of the global population currently resides in urban areas, a rate projected to reach 70% by 2050. Approximately 1.1 billion...

18 March 2024

A group of people on bikes and motor scooters driving down a flooded street
What if Mobility Due to Climate Extremes Is a Crisis for Some but an Adaptation Measure for Others?
Buyana Kareem, Kampala

The United Nations Disaster Risk Agency holds that “displacement means situations where people are forced or obliged to leave their homes or places of habitual residence because of a disaster or to avoid the impact of an immediate and foreseeable natural hazard. Such displacement results from the fact that affected...

11 March 2024

A harbor with a boat at a dock
Supporting Community Voices for Resiliency Actions
Rob Pirani, New York

Looking out from my office in lower Manhattan, preparations for rising seas and coastal storms are becoming real. As I type these words, construction crews are cutting scores of mature trees that once graced the local parks to make room for a system of about five-meter-high berms, flood walls, and...

February, 2024

26 February 2024

A picture of many people sitting in the grass inside painted circles, all six feet apart
Social Infrastructure in a Post-COVID World
Laura Landau, New York

Social infrastructure and so-called “third spaces” (the non-work, non-home gathering spaces ― either public or private ― like parks, libraries, houses of worship, and coffee shops where people spend time) are a crucial part of the lifeblood of civic life, particularly in cities. These are spaces where people come together,...

25 February 2024

A picture of a young girl drinking water from her cupped hands
Highlights from The Nature of Cities 2023
David Maddox, New York

Cities should be collaborative creations, no? Various professions, ways of knowing, modes of action, governments, and the people that live there, work together (we hope) to build their city from their shared and often contested values. And we need to find greener routes to built cities for them to be...

7 February 2024

A group of trees with no leaves against a blue sky
Talk in the Park: An inquiry into culture and creativity
David Haley, Walney Island

Rightly, people recently have been valuing Indigenous cultures and writing about them. Not wishing to mimic or appropriate, but as an attempt to learn from such ways of thinking, this essay uses a form of circular storying[1] that becomes nonlinear. I stumbled upon ‘storying’ (the making and telling of stories)...

January, 2024

15 January 2024

A Google Earth image of an open pit
Urban Mining: A Sustainable Alternative to the Environmental Impacts and Social Injustices of Extractive Mining
Graciela Arosemena, Panama City

Every human activity generates environmental impacts, such as in the case of urban settlements. Conventionally, the urban environmental impacts that are more worrisome are those that are the result of the city itself, such as urban solid wastes and water contamination. These wastes are the remains of urban metabolism, and...

8 January 2024

A woman standing in front of a brightly colored mural of a woman's head
What if Women Designed the City? A Voyage from Brutalism to Biophilia
May East, Edinburgh

Nestled within the lively and restless Leith neighbourhood stands the iconic curved structure of Cables Wynd House, immortalised in Irvine Welsh’s novel “Trainspotting” and referred to by locals as the Banana Flats. Constructed in the 1960s, Cables Wynd is considered one of Britain’s greatest post-war buildings designed in the Brutalist...

December, 2023

20 December 2023

A muddy work site with a city in the background
Ecosystem Approach Framework Well-Suited for Urban Areas
John Hartig, Windsor

Historically, North American urban environmental and natural resource management was operationalized in a top-down, command-and-control fashion. In general, governments prepared plans and made decisions with some limited input from other stakeholders. Over time, this shifted to a more bottom-up, collaborative approach ― an ecosystem approach. The ecosystem approach is not...

6 December 2023

A group of people marching in a street holding signs
The Future Wave: Youth-led Commoning for Care and Climate Justice
Praneeta Mudaliar, Mississauga

Youth voices advocating for climate justice have emerged as a significant force for shedding light on the escalating challenges that climate change will create in their current and future lives. While adults often assume that young people are not interested in politics and/or are perceived to be less politically engaged,...

3 December 2023

A city with a river running through it
Solving the Global Water Crisis
Chantal van Ham, Brussels

In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Equal access to safe and clean water, however, requires a major change in how decisions over use and rights to water are made and needs appropriate legal frameworks to curb over-extraction and unsustainable behavior. Qanats...

November, 2023

28 November 2023

A group of people standing around plants
Plant-human Relations: How Can Art Foster Positive Perceptions of Weeds in Cities?
Christopher Kennedy, New York

In early September 2019, a plant known as Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) was considered one of the top threats to public safety in New York City. Although fairly common in the region, a Tweet from Adrian Benepe, the former commissioner of NYC Parks & Recreation went viral after he found...

20 November 2023

An aerial view of a marshy area
A Disappearing Lake in Three Parts
Wendy Wischer, Salt Lake City

Part I: Falling in Love Part II: A Broken Heart Part III: Finding Joy in the Smallest of Things This is a collection of stories about a disappearing lake. The Great Salt Lake. It is told in three parts through poems, prose, and multi-media artwork. These first excerpts are from...

15 November 2023

A green land with a body of water
Nature-based Solutions Are Gaining Momentum in Brazilian Cities
Cecilia Herzog, Rio de Janeiro

After more than 15 years of teaching, researching, consulting, and advocating for nature-based solutions (NBS) in Brazil, it’s really fulfilling to see NbS becoming nationally recognized and adopted in several Brazilian cities. In this essay, I present my view of the process that led to this moment. It has had...

7 November 2023

A rocky beach with a building in the background
Steady Friction Between Nature-based and Engineered Solutions for Urban Coastal Flood Adaptation
Zbigniew Grabowski, Hartford Laura Costadone, Norfolk Erich Wolff, Singapore Mariana Hernández, Sacramento Yuliya Dzyuban, Singapore Marthe Derkzen, Arnhem/Nijmegen Loan Diep, New York City

A view from the joint meeting of the San Juan ULTRA and the NATURA Early Career Network 1. Nature-based Solutions in the Context of San Juan, Puerto Rico On a sunny day in San Juan, Puerto Rico, life is good. Along the beaches, crabs scuttle in the riprap next to...

October, 2023

30 October 2023

A close-up picture of a small metal bucket full of colorful writing utensils on a bright green table
Discovering Stewardship Through Play: Using Applied Theater Techniques for Environmental Education
Ania Upstill, New York

Human impacts on the environment are no joke, and climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing humanity. So, Environmental Education (EE) is serious business. Given the context, it is understandable that EE is usually communicated to adults through serious methods of communication such as lectures, information sessions, and...

23 October 2023

A picture of walkway between two buildings with planters on either side and with large trees shading the walkway
Tel Aviv Was Tartan Before It Was White: An Analysis of Patrick Geddes’s 1925 Town Plan
Joseph Rabie, Montreuil

The White City. Thus, Tel Aviv refers to itself, taking its cue from the many buildings built in the International Style in the 1930s by the avant-garde architects who had studied in Europe or come to Palestine to escape Nazi Germany. Some had studied at the Bauhaus, and the term...

16 October 2023

A picture of a tiny green frog sitting on a leaf
When You Sing You Want Noise and Bright Lights? Singing Behavior of Urban Frogs
Ana-Cecilia Gutiérrez-Vannucchi, San Jose Luis Sandoval, San José

Obstacles in nature are quite variable. Some are easy to observe: for example, a tree in the middle of an open area, a rock in the middle of a trail, or a lake in the forest. Others are not that easy to spot or identify as an obstacle. For example,...

9 October 2023

A picture of an older child in a Hi Vis vest smiling and holding a sprout towards the camera
From Awareness to Action: Citizen Empowerment in Invasive Species Management
Ana Pinheira, Guimarães

Invasive species cause one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and ecosystems worldwide. Many species are introduced into environments different from their place of origin and can quickly proliferate, causing significant harm to the ecosystems, economy, and public health. Invasive species have the capacity to establish, reproduce, and spread uncontrollably,...