Essays Archive

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.
December, 2020

22 December 2020

What is One Tree Worth?
Carly Ziter, Montreal

Writing this during National Forest Week here in Canada, I’m reflecting (as I frequently do) on the urban forest. As a scientist, I often find myself collapsing the beautiful, multidimensional, urban forest into a few general measurements: stand density, canopy cover, biomass, etc. But as an urban resident, I cherish...

20 December 2020

Quarantine Fatigue and the Power of Activating Public Lands as Social Infrastructure
Lindsay Campbell, New York Erika Svendsen, New York Laura Landau, New York Michelle Johnson, New York City Sophie Plitt, New York

This essay is part three in a series. Since 13 March 2020, our team of social science researchers has been keeping a collective journal of our experiences of our New York City neighborhoods and public spaces during COVID-19. Read the essays from spring and summer here. 1. Winter is coming:...

14 December 2020

The Hills Save Us
Diana Wiesner, Bogota

En español. Citizenship is derived from city, and floristry from forest or jungle. Forest and human being live a socio-ecological pact in which the forest becomes a new citizen respected in its integrity, stability, and extraordinary beauty. Both benefits, as the utilitarian logic of exploitation is abandoned and the logic...

8 December 2020

Opportunity in Crisis: Ecojustice Education for Pandemic Resilience 
Scott Kellogg, Albany

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was widespread concern and uncertainty. How many people would get sick? How long would this last? Will I lose my home, my job? Will there be food shortages? There were also widespread shutdowns—schools, offices, restaurants, libraries, even the police were only responding to...

4 December 2020

Ecosystems as a Framework for Urban Planning: Reconnecting. Rediscovering. Reinvigorating.
Jennifer Dowdell, Baltimore

If we peel back the layers of our urban infrastructure and examine the ecological patterns that originally formed the landscapes beneath our feet, we can shape more resilient cities through an interdisciplinary and inclusive urban design process based on the braided narratives of place: ecology, history, and culture. More than...

1 December 2020

A Pattern Language for Urban Nature
Paul Downton, Melbourne

1 We are part of nature We are part of nature and we are interdependent with nature.   2 We think we can be separate from nature We cannot escape this interdependency. Even when we try, we are tied to living systems by umbilical cords of technology, constrained by natural...

November, 2020

22 November 2020

Why Would the Economy Need Biodiversity?
Nadezhda Kiyatkina, Moscow

And What Grassplots, Amur Leopard, and Mold Have in CommonWhat is biodiversity for? Some don’t need that question answered: you just adopt a philosopher’s perspective, and everything becomes clear—all living things have the right to dwell on the planet. For others, the question is confusing. Those trying to find a quantitative answer to...

21 November 2020

The Challenges for Innovating in Green and Blue Infrastructure: The Case of an Innovative Drainage Approach in Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Jose Puppim, São Paulo Carlos Rigolo, São Paulo Leon Rangel, São Paulo

Green and blue infrastructure (GBI), a form of nature-based solutions (NBS), can provide huge benefits for cities, as GBIs are innovative ways to connect biodiversity and people. Besides the direct functions that the infrastructure provides (e.g. flood prevention or cooling effect), there is also a series of co-benefits that nature...

17 November 2020

Nairobi’s Rapidly Expanding Transport Network is Costing its Ecological Lifeline
Kevin Lunzalu, Nairobi

Since 2013, the government of Kenya has laid out extensive expansion plans for the city’s transport infrastructure. Nairobi County’s strategy lays out a progressive framework that has seen the introduction of Mass Rapid Transit Systems (MRTS), the standard gauge railway, connectors, and the expansion of several other feeder roads. The...

9 November 2020

Inappropriate Infrastructure Can Make Green Spaces Unlivable
Ana Faggi, Buenos Aires Jose Luis Hryckovian, Buenos Aires

The urban matrix is dominated by the built environment that undoubtedly predominates over green infrastructures like domestic gardens, woodlands, tree-lined streets, squares, sports fields, and green corridors. Thus, cities must be seen as a complex system where the interacting gray, green, and blue elements cannot be analyzed individually. Proper handling...

3 November 2020

What Can Policymakers Do to Enhance Nature-based Solutions for Sustainable Cities?
Rodrigo Bellezoni, São Paulo Fanxin Meng, New Haven

Cities are almost entirely dependent on surrounding regions for food, water, and energy (FWE) to sustain urban population and activities. Sixty percent of the global population will live in cities by 2030, with 90% of urban growth in the coming decades likely to occur in low- and middle-income countries. Rising...

October, 2020

26 October 2020

What I Know Now: The Need for “Good Trouble” to Build an Anti-Racist Science of Ecology
Steward Pickett, Poughkeepsie

A meditation on race and ecology on the occasion of the death of U.S. Representative John Lewis.Representative John R. Lewis (1940-2020) was a hero of the civil rights movement in the United States. He was one of the six leaders of the famous 1963 March On Washington, a leader of...

20 October 2020

The Next “Normal” City Must Be a Sustainable Habitat for Healthy Humans
Matteo Giusti, Gävle

“Stay home!” This is the imperative that has echoed across the planet in the last months. Everyone is at, and a, risk to themselves and others. And so we did. We mostly stayed at home. After a few days, we began to notice that our house, our cities, and our...

6 October 2020

Parks are Critical Urban Infrastructure: The Use of Urban Green Space in New York City During COVID-19
Timon McPhearson, New York Christopher Kennedy, New York Bianca Lopez, Amherst Emily Maxwell, New York

Urban green spaces have long been a refuge for city dwellers, especially in times of crisis, but how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the use and importance of urban green and open spaces? Are they perceived or used differently during this time? Who has access historically, but also during COVID-19?...

September, 2020

30 September 2020

Urban Gardening As a Response to Food Supply Issues in Dense Urban Areas During the COVID-19 Crisis
Constanza Cerda, Stuttgart

En español. In December 2019, the city of Wuhan, China, reported the first case of Coronavirus. Since then, the virus has spread rapidly, reaching more than 31,300,000 cases worldwide (as of September 2020, according to John Hopkins University). Globally and regionally, a series of measures have been taken to slow...

24 September 2020

Socially Distant Summer: Stewarding Nature and Community to Meet Basic Needs during a Pandemic
Lindsay Campbell, New York Michelle Johnson, New York City Laura Landau, New York Sophie Plitt, New York Erika Svendsen, New York

SUMMER We started to settle into our “new normal”, with the pace of our journal entries significantly slowing down. Social distancing didn’t feel as novel any more, we weren’t noticing the shifts and changes as much. Or perhaps we were worn down with mental fatigue and journaling didn’t feel therapeutic,...

11 September 2020

A Walk Along the Bièvre River
Carmen Bouyer, Paris

Since 1912 in Paris, the river Bièvre, once the city’s second-largest river, has disappeared from our landscape. It used to cross the whole left bank from south to north, flowing through the 13th and 5th arrondissements before reaching the Seine between “Le Jardin des Plantes”, our historical botanical garden, and...

3 September 2020

Nature in Cities in a Post-Covid-19 World: Don’t Blame Urban Density in a Pandemic
Will Allen, Chapel Hill

As a city and regional planner by training, I have been alarmed at the tendency to blame urban density (defined as people per square mile) as a primary culprit for New York City’s relatively severe initial COVID-19 outbreak. An epidemiologist from Stanford, a professor of infectious diseases at the University...

August, 2020

24 August 2020

Family Tree
Andreas Weber, Berlin

Linden In early summer, after the crest of the first wave of the pandemics had broken and kids resumed to go to school and street cafés had opened again, I spent days alone writing on the balcony of a flat in a somewhat sketchy Berlin neighbourhood. Down in the street,...

24 August 2020

To Live in Companionship with Trees, Plants, Rivers, and Mountains
Martine Murray, Melbourne

We are gardening. Feeding our trees. We decide to cut the deadwood off the Fejoa tree. Afterwards it’s considerably squat and oddly shaped, but we agree it looks better. Or it feels better. Or it seems to us that it, the tree, feels better. It has just been liberated of...

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