Essays Archive

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.
June, 2023

13 June 2023

A picture of a woman with headphones and a laptop sitting amongst large, leafy plants
Composing an Entropic Symphony from the Sounds of Plants About to Be Displaced
Lucie Lederhendler, Brandon

In early 2018, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, which is located in the western part of the city of Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada, announced that they would be demolishing their conservatory in April, citing the end of the structure’s lifespan. At that time, artist Helga Jakobson was experimenting with designs for...

May, 2023

29 May 2023

A picture of a waterway full of trash with some vegetation on the banks
From a Buzzword to a Standard: Challenges in Mainstreaming Nature-based Solutions in Urban Planning in the Global South
Seema Mundoli, Bangalore Abhiri Sanfui, Mumbai Harini Nagendra, Bangalore

“Sewage water is a bonus for us.” This is what a farmer in the east Kolkata wetlands had to say about the traditional practice of farming using a mix of sewage and freshwater. The wetlands situated in peri-urban Kolkata, a metropolitan city in eastern India, have a fascinating history linked...

17 May 2023

A picture of a grey bird with a yellow belly perched on a branch
Can Neighborhoods Provide Breeding Habitat for Interior-Forest Specialist Birds? Yes
Mark Hostetler, Gainesville Natalie Pegg, Gainesville

Interior-forest specialist birds are reported to primarily require large, undisturbed forest areas in which to breed (Archer et al. 2019). Why do these species need interior forest conditions? Conservationists and research suggest that these species are vulnerable to the increased predators that are found in fragmented areas. Also, the abundance...

8 May 2023

A picture of a young girl drinking water from her cupped hands
The Dilemma of Water Scarcity and Ecological Stewardship in Ghana
Ibrahim Wallee, Accra

The growing significance of sachet water in Ghana — the machine-sealed 500ml plastic bags of drinking water, known in local parlance as “pure water” — as a primary source of drinking water for households is important. It has a major impact towards the achievement of universal access to improved drinking...

5 May 2023

A picture of a park with a walking trail, trees, and a bench
The Elephant and the Ant
María Aragão

As urbanization intensifies around the world, and the devastating effects of global warming are increasingly evident, it is vital to promote urban ecosystems as a tool to achieve ecological balance within the city. Urban ecosystems are the base to guarantee healthy and sustainable places to live, work and visit. Urban...

April, 2023

24 April 2023

A picture of a walkway through a park with many tall trees
Pinamar: A Garden City Looking Towards a Sustainable Future
Ana Faggi, Buenos Aires Maria Samanta Anguiano, Pinamar

In Argentina, as a long weekend arrives many people living in the metropolitan area of ​​Buenos Aires flee from the concrete and asphalt in search of Nature. There are many destination possibilities, but one that is undoubtedly a favorite is a garden city, 370 km south of Buenos Aires, which...

17 April 2023

A picture of a tiny white moth perched on a person's thumb
Urban Biodiversity Justice
Scott Kellogg, Albany

According to modernist philosophy, cities are “human only” spaces built by and for the exclusive use of homo sapiens ― clean, sterile, artifacts of human imagination that symbolize humanity’s separation from nature. Aside from cultivated garden plants and a handful of companion or work animals whose presence is tolerated, non-human...

11 April 2023

A picture of a map with the colors going from cooler to warmer as they get closer to the center
Explaining the Housing Crisis with the Theory of Constraints
Mathieu Hélie, Montréal

How economic flows and bottlenecks affect urban growth When we encounter a contradiction, it’s very likely that we are facing an unresolved “problem of organized complexity,” to paraphrase Jane Jacobs. Such is the situation with the crisis of urban home affordability and NIMBYism, where everyone agrees that the supply of...

3 April 2023

An illustration of a person wearing VR googles with space and the earth behind them
What Futures for Nature in Cities?
Perrine Hamel, Singapore

Over the last few months, the metaverse has captured the attention of many professionals, including urban planners. While some may fear a Spielberg-like scenario where we stop caring for our physical world, we can also think of the metaverse as a gateway to inclusion ― where most people could help...

March, 2023

27 March 2023

A picture of a cover of a book depicting several photos of people, buildings, and the NYC skyline
Naming Gotham: What I Learned About the Place Names of New York City
Rebecca Bratspies, New York

I spent the last few years working on and off on a book that I tentatively titled Who Was That Major Deegan Anyway? That title reflected the book’s origin story. My husband Allen and I used to get stuck in traffic on the Major Deegan every time we tried to...

18 March 2023

Paying Attention to Make Art: Twenty-nine Reflections on the Harrisons
Chris Fremantle, Ayrshire, Scotland Anne Douglas, Aberdeen

The Harrisons (Helen Mayer Harrison (1927-2018) and Newton Harrison (1932-2022)) are widely acknowledged as pioneers in bringing together art and ecology into a new form of practice. They worked for over fifty years with biologists, ecologists, architects, urban planners, and other artists to initiate collaborative dialogues. The works they made...

13 March 2023

Two side-by-side pictures of a grassy field, one in infrared to show heat signatures
The Tale of Lawns: The Story of Class, Deserts, and Potential
Alicja Wójcik, Brussels

What connects all upper-middle-class houses, public institutions’ buildings, stadiums, and golf fields? A hint: it is aesthetic, it is high-maintenance, and it is a prime example of a single species use. The answer is ― the lawn. The history of lawns goes back to the late Middle Ages, and is,...

6 March 2023

A picture of a sidewalk with people walking, cycling, and moving potted trees
Greening the Streetscape: Tactical Urbanism in Munich
Leoni Vollmann, Brussels

Due to urban densification processes and increasing confrontation with climate change, cities face the need to organize their public space in efficient and sustainable ways that take current needs as well as those of future generations into account. The Green Infrastructure (GI) concept is a widely used concept, introducing various...

February, 2023

27 February 2023

A picture of the side of a building with several metal staircases and fire escapes coming down with greenery around them
A Balcony Greenhouse: Food and Wellbeing in the City
M'Lisa Colbert, Montreal

Urban building codes and design standards play a crucial role in how a city adapts to contemporary challenges, like climate change and urbanization. I live in Montréal where, like many cities in the world, building codes largely came into force on account of two big urban phenomena: fire and disease....

20 February 2023

Eight pictures of groups of people doing various activities
From Monopoly to Commonspoly: How Communities are Changing the Game
Lorena Zárate, Ottawa Sophia Torres, Barcelona

  Playing games is a serious thing. Animals and humans learn how to relate with each other and with the world through games involving bodies and minds. Games provide a simplified way to understand complex issues, while at the same time broadening our perception of reality through multi-sensorial experiences. Playing...

13 February 2023

A picture of people relaxing on a small beach with blue umbrellas and a walkway next to the water
Ça Marche: Walking is Paramount to Human and Liveable Cities
Francois Mancebo, Paris

Sometimes — for a day, a week, or a month — Paris turns into the very kingdom of walkers. That is, during transit strikes, when subway trains and buses stop running. Millions of walkers flood the streets, as the Métro and bus network release the load of crowded bodies it...

6 February 2023

A picture of a group of people in a library standing around a table
Caring in Public: Testing Our Framework with Different Social Infrastructure Sites and Systems (Part 2)
Lindsay Campbell, New York Robin Cline, Chicago Laura Landau, New York Georgia Silvera Seamans, New York City Ben Helphand, Chicago Paola Aguirre, Chicago Sonya Sachdeva, Chicago Natalie Campbell, Washington D.C. Nora Almeida, New York City

As part of The Nature of Cities Festival, on 29 March 2022, a team of practitioners and researchers at NeighborSpace, Borderless, and the USDA Forest Service – Northern Research Station organized a seed session, entitled “Caring in Public,” to explore the building blocks of social infrastructure with a group of...

6 February 2023

A picture of a woman and a child painting a flowerbed
Caring in Public: A Framework for Social Infrastructure Visibility in Community-managed Open Space (Part 1)
Lindsay Campbell, New York Robin Cline, Chicago Ben Helphand, Chicago Paola Aguirre, Chicago Sonya Sachdeva, Chicago Michelle Johnson, New York City Erika Svendsen, New York

A team of practitioners and researchers at the Central Park Conservancy Institute for Urban Parks, NeighborSpace, Borderless, and USDA Forest Service – Northern Research Station met from September to November 2021 to discuss research on social infrastructure and urban green spaces, with the goal of translating academic literature into practical...

January, 2023

30 January 2023

A picture of a hand scooping dirt from the ground
A Nonprofit Organization Creates Mini-forests in Public Schools in São Paulo Using the Miyawaki Method
Rafael Ribeiro, São Paulo

Formigas-de-embaúba carries out environmental education programs to plant native mini-forests in public schools together with school communities.  If you asked someone if they could imagine growing a forest from scratch, they would most likely say no. If you then asked them if they could grow a mini-forest of 500 m²...

23 January 2023

A picture of a gate covered in signs with a road leading through a forest behind it
The Nature of Heritage: Rethinking Patrimonial Notions Towards Greener Urban Futures
Fábio Gouveia, Brussels

Urban green spaces often become entangled in notions of heritage. Multiple factors explain this convergence, from the historical origins of so many major urban green spaces, to the range of values (cultural, spiritual, etc.) that are tied to these places (see Feng & Tan, 2017; Forrest & Konijnendijk, 2005) and...

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