Essays Archive

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.
July, 2022

10 July 2022

A sparrowhawk sitting on pavement
Then Came the Crash
Andreas Weber, Berlin

I wasn’t in a good shape when I broke the sparrowhawk’s wings. A gray sky over Berlin, a cold eastern wind. An early March day that never had properly lighted up and already started to sink back into dawn. No rain, no snow, but this dry and uncomfortable wind. I...

June, 2022

29 June 2022

Photo Essay: Seoul and the Call of the Urban Wild
Patrick M. Lydon, Daejeon

In the most densely populated city in the developed world, people walk to work through a forest instead of driving in traffic. They take vacations on the metro, family picnics on the edge of a cliff, and routinely walk from their doorstep into a vast urban national park called Bukhansan....

20 June 2022

A picture of an outdoor space full of leaves with a sign reading "Please leave the leaves"
Blowing in the Wind: Leaf Blower Disservices for Human and Ecosystem Health in the City
Lidiya Beida, Toronto Felix Lambert, Inujuak Emma Despland, Montréal Rebecca Tittler, Montréal Carly Ziter, Montreal

Reconsidering leaf blowers Calls for the ban of leaf blowers in urban centers are on the rise, including community group initiatives, municipal bans, opinion pieces, and proposed state/provincial and national-level legislation. The reasons include noise pollution, particulates, and other conventional pollutants, greenhouse gas emissions, and ecological disruption. Understanding the interconnected...

13 June 2022

A group of people walking on a path under trees
Heat Risks are Rising in Cities Worldwide — Here Is How to Plan for Urban Heat Resilience
Sara Meerow, Tempe Ladd Keith, Tucson

Cities everywhere are getting hotter. Globally, every year from 2013 to 2021 ranked among the 10 hottest on record due to climate change. Urban areas are generally warming at a faster rate than rural or natural areas due to the urban heat island (UHI), a phenomenon whereby the built environment...

6 June 2022

A diagram of how nbs effect community interactions
Three Lessons for Co-creating Nature-based Solutions: How Can We Build Natural Networks to Deliver the Deal With Stakeholders?
Shibeal McCann, Dublin Lodder Marleen, Rotterdam Paula Vandergert, London Kato Allaert, Rotterdam

More than half of the world’s population lives and works in diverse, bustling cities. And perhaps, if you are reading this blog, you have a desire to make these places we call home greener—it can be done with nature-based solutions! Quite often city-makers who want to implement nature-based solutions run...

May, 2022

30 May 2022

A picture of a close up of growing sprouts overlooking a building across the street
Can Permaculture Save the World?
Lamiaa Biaz, Paris

Like seeds planted in my brain The first time I ever heard about permaculture was in 2016. I discovered this life philosophy in the French documentaries “The World of Tomorrow” (by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent), and then in “A Quest for Meaning” (by Nathanaël Coste and Marc de la...

23 May 2022

A concept drawing of a park
Threading the Needle: Advancing Equitable Green Infrastructure Investments in US Cities
Will Allen, Chapel Hill

Dr. Ian Mell from the University of Manchester recently published an article in Frontiers in Sustainable Cities on the role of green infrastructure in cities as a tool for economic and ecological “regeneration”. Dr. Mell’s article is one of a series of articles in both the peer-reviewed and popular literature...

18 May 2022

COVID-19 as an Accelerator to Rethink the City
Ana Faggi, Buenos Aires

Urban public space has been a subject of rethinking for decades regarding its role as a catalyst for revitalization and as a promoter of social interaction. Thus, most cities have experienced substantial improvements which positioned them in a better ranking of liveable cities, since the type and quality of urban...

1 May 2022

Urban Form and Urban Nature After the COVID-19 Pandemic
Rob McDonald, Basel

The COVID-19 pandemic is slowly receding and, while it still is a fatally serious problem in some places, it is possible to imagine it at least receding into an endemic disease. It is perhaps, therefore, a good time to reflect on what COVID-19 has meant and will mean for urban...

April, 2022

21 April 2022

A illustration of a park within a city
Translocal Adventures, Communities of Practice, and the TNOC Festival
Duncan Crowley, Lisbon Giorgia Silvestri, Rotterdam Sara Silva, Lisbon

UrbanA, ECOLISE, and Communities for Future joined forces to lead an experimental seed session on the first day of the amazing The Nature of Cities Festival (with online discussions on the #TNOCFestival hashtag). About 25 people turned up from different corners of the planet, on Monday 22nd of February 2021,...

14 April 2022

Better Rankings for Better Cities: The Limitations and Prospects of City Rankings
Devansh Jain, Singapore Perrine Hamel, Singapore

So, what happens when a city reaches the top ranks? Have you ever noticed the kind of media attention the city gets? City rankings are indeed very popular and attract a lot of media attention across the globe. Each year, there are more than 40 city indices published globally. In...

4 April 2022

A flooded street with cars and people
Developing a Successful Climate Action Plan for Mumbai
Samarth Das, Mumbai

Acknowledging local conditions and ensuring adherence across agencies and citizens will ensure achievements of its goals. With over 140 km of coastline and 480 land area, Mumbai is one of the most vulnerable cities to climate change induced hazards such as sea-level rise, storm surge, and urban flooding amongst...

March, 2022

21 March 2022

A gathering of people at an outdoor table under an awning
Growing Food Together Is Healthy
Marthe Derkzen, Arnhem/Nijmegen Berber Bergstra, Wageningen

Nature and greenery are good for you; we all know that by now. But is it also possible to improve your health by actively seeking out greenery or by getting involved in greenery yourself? That is, can you improve your health simply by taking an action? This is something Wageningen...

2 March 2022

A group of people posing for a photo in front of a statue
Moving toward Anti-Racism in the Environmental Field
Cindy Thomashow, Seattle

This article is a statement of gratitude for experiences that have moved me toward antiracist environmental education. The last 20 years of my life have been a story of reckoning and awakening to pervasive racism and its effect on the environmental field. I was never taught the history of enslavement,...

February, 2022

25 February 2022

A scale made of leaves
This Changes Everything: New York’s Environmental Amendment
Rebecca Bratspies, New York

In November 2021, New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted to add an environmental amendment to their state constitution. Section 19, which provides that “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment,” is now part of the New York Bill of Rights (the part of New...

11 February 2022

A digital model of a street with real life pictures of vendors incorporated
The Ecology of a Soi: Bangkok’s Generic Architecture from Inside-out
Brian McGrath, New York Vineet Diwadkar, Bangkok

Sois, or lanes, are the capillaries of Bangkok, Thailand. Like rectangular blocks in New York City, or piazzas in Rome, they constitute the architecture or the DNA of the city. For anthropologist Erik Cohen, a Bangkok soi constitutes an overlooked “semi-autonomous ecological sub-system” which comprise the “interstitial hinterland” between the...

January, 2022

20 January 2022

Highlights from The Nature of Cities 2021
David Maddox, New York

When we read unexpected and remarkable things, we smile, even laugh out loud, and think: yes, this makes sense; and I didn’t think of it before now. In this spirit, let us celebrate some of the highlights from TNOC writing in 2021. These contributions from around the world were some combination...

18 January 2022

Embracing Diverse Concepts of Nature-based Solutions to Enact Transformational Change: A Perspective From the Early Career Working Group of the NATURA Network
Zbigniew Grabowski, Hartford Ffion Atkins, Cape Town Lelani Mannetti, Atlanta Clair Cooper, Durham Danielle McCarthy, Belfast Robert Hobbins, Atlanta Matt Smit, University Park Yuliya Dzyuban, Singapore Charlyn Green, Atlanta Yeowon Kim, Ottawa Hopeland P, Tamil Nadu Pablo Cantis, New York Luis Ortiz, New York

Governments and communities around the world are embracing Nature-based Solutions (NbS) as a major climate adaptation strategy. Building off of pre-existing approaches to integrating ecological and built systems, NbS attempt to meet a wide array of social goals including improving urban quality of life, supporting transit and recreation, and mitigating...

2 January 2022

Where Have All Our Gunda Thopes Gone? An Illustrated Story of Loss and Hope Around Peri-Urban Commons in Karnataka, India
Sahana Subramanian, Lund Neeharika Verma, Amherst Sukanya Basu, Göttingen Seema Mundoli, Bangalore Harini Nagendra, Bangalore

“Lakshmamma thought sadly of her grandchildren, growing up in the city, in a crowded slum with no thope to run around in or trees to climb.” This excerpt, from our bilingual book “Where have all our gunda thopes gone?”, is a story of loss and hope—loss of nature as a...

December, 2021

6 December 2021

Planning is Power: How Planning Shaped Colonial Realities in Occupied Palestine
Huda Shaka, Dubai

Urban planning often serves existing power structures to the detriment of the marginalized and as such has been used as a tool for racial segregation and discrimination in many contexts. As UCLA Professor Ananya Roy puts it: “Urban planning has repeatedly produced segregation and displacement”. Much has been written, for...

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