Essays Archive

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.
May, 2021

5 May 2021

Tree Inequality Is Worse in the Suburbs
Rob McDonald, Basel

Urban trees and their canopy cover provide many benefits for urban residents, reducing air pollutant concentrations, mitigating stormwater runoff, maintaining water quality, encouraging physical recreation, and improving mental health. But just as urban ecologists are quantifying more and more benefits of urban trees for health, other research increasingly shows that...

April, 2021

29 April 2021

Documenting the Pandemic Year: Reflecting Backward, Looking Forward
Lindsay Campbell, New York Michelle Johnson, New York City Sophie Plitt, New York Laura Landau, New York Erika Svendsen, New York

This essay is part four 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, public green spaces, and environmental stewardship during COVID-19. Read the essays from spring, summer, and fall here....

21 April 2021

A Walk in the Park? Re-imagining Urban Environmental Conservation during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Kaja Aagaard, Middlebury Mika Mei Jia Tan, Los Baños Jennifer Rae Pierce, Vancouver

The COVID-19 pandemic has established a moment of immense global loss. In the midst of this public health crisis, our concerns for our families and communities necessarily take priority. Yet, addressing these concerns demands a look towards the future: to the reevaluation of global systems that may produce or obstruct...

9 April 2021

Is Cali the City with the Most Birds in the World?
Rubén Darío Palacio, Durham

The city of Cali in southwestern Colombia boasts a staggering number of 562 species of birds, and it probably has the longest bird list for any city in the world. But can we find out for sure? Birds are the link between the urban and the wild. A bird-friendly city can harbor...

March, 2021

24 March 2021

Putting Nature First: Driving Actions for Nature in Cities
Niki Frantzeskaki, Melbourne Cathy Oke, Melbourne Judy Bush, Melbourne Sarah Bekessy, Melbourne James Fitzsimons, Melbourne Georgia Garrard, Melbourne Maree Grenfell, Melbourne Martin Hartigan, Melbourne

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how important urban nature is for our physical and mental health. As urban strategists embark on ideas and think of pathways for recovery and “building back better” our societies and especially cities, it is paramount that the green recovery include nature in the mix of options...

20 March 2021

Vegetation is the Future of Architecture
Gary Grant, London

Most of the inhabitable regions of the Earth were originally covered by forests, grasslands, and wetlands. These carbon-grabbing, biodiverse, spongy landscapes have been largely replaced by agriculture and urban development, which is drier, belches carbon, is erosive of soils, and which has lost most of its wildlife. Indeed, biodiversity declines...

12 March 2021

Knowledge Systems for Urban Renewal
Chris Ives, Nottingham

“Science is meaningless because it gives no answer to our question, the only question important for us: ‘What shall we do and how shall we live?’ ” — Leo Tolstoy  We know that our cities need to look and function differently. There is a wealth of scientific evidence showing that urbanisation...

7 March 2021

Including Diverse Voices in Adaptation Planning
Marthe Derkzen, Arnhem/Nijmegen Timon McPhearson, New York Huda Shaka, Dubai Marion Lacourt, Paris Frida Larios, Antiguo Cuzcatlán, Copán, and Washington

This contribution is the result of a thought-collecting Seed Session during the TNOC Summit in Paris, held on June 5, 2019. Pitches, group breakouts, and a facilitated discussion addressed the question: Including diverse voices in adaptation planning, how do we make it happen? Two illustrators, Frida Larios and Marion Lacourt,...

2 March 2021

Making Spaces for Edible Gardens in Compact Cities: the Taipei Case
Wan-Yu Shih, Taipei Che-Wei Liu, Taipei

Edible urban gardens have gained increasing popularity in the Global North within the narrative of nature-based solutions for cities and as parts of urban green infrastructure, which reintroduce greenspaces and associated functions into built environments, with the aspiration of leading to a socially and ecologically more sustainable city. Amid the...

January, 2021

31 January 2021

Green Recovery’s Missing Piece: Engagement with Future World Leaders!
Vishisht Singhal, Delhi

This essay advocates for a unique “Youth Empowerment Based Green Recovery Programme” to be developed and adapted by governments to enhance long-term societal resilience. As we have collectively moved towards unlocking the lockdowns and quarantines that had been in effect since March 2020, the world’s attention has been gripped in...

23 January 2021

Highlights from The Nature of Cities 2020
David Maddox, New York

Today’s post celebrates some of the highlights from TNOC writing in 2020. These contributions—originating around the world—were one or more of widely read, offering novel points of view, and/or somehow disruptive in a useful way. All 1000+ TNOC essays and roundtables are worthwhile reads, of course, but what follows will give you a...

13 January 2021

Building Practitioner Networks to Better Support Kenyan Frontline Workers During the COVID-19 Crisis: Some Learnings and Reflections
Shillah Mwaniga, Nairobi Gitonga Isaiah, Maynooth Manasi Kumar, Nairobi

As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates and the prevalence escalates, global health care systems become overwhelmed with patients who are either confirmed or suspected to be suffering from the disease (Chen et al., 2020). Frontline health care workers (HCWs) are required to work for long and irregular hours, with heavy workloads...

8 January 2021

Antiracist Environmental Leadership in a Virtual World
Cindy Thomashow, Seattle

Our graduate students are figuring out how to best “immerse” themselves in city spaces while staying safe during the pandemic. Students find creative ways to both learn and practice while masked and distanced from community members. A positive outcome of being online is the ability to invite environmental activists and...

3 January 2021

On Privilege as Choice
Hita Unnikrishnan, Sheffield

Two incidents stand out particularly from my memories as a young child. In the first one, I was perhaps 5 or 6 years old—at that age when we ran out of the housing colony and into the streets to play a game of hopscotch or whatever else took our fancy....

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...

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