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Thanks for your post on ‘Nature And Education As An Urban Catalyst For The Future’ Richard – you raised a number of important points that are particularly relevant in the current context of issues such as climate change, and I wholeheartedly agree that implementing environmental awareness at a young age through education is vital in striving towards a sustainable future for all. In this post, I would like to further expand on the importance of nature in our cities looking ahead into the future.

As mentioned, the subject of climate change has never been more significant than it is currently. We are increasingly being reminded of the impacts we are inflicting on the environment as a human race, and it has been stated that ‘scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal’.[1]

So, looking into the future, how can we live and develop more sustainably as a global population, ensuring that we are doing everything within our power to combat negative environmental impacts?

In ‘Planning Sustainable And Livable Cities’, Stephen Wheeler addresses the concept of sustainable development and what it actually entails. In Wheeler’s view, the term refers to ‘alternatives to traditional patterns of physical, social and economic development that can avoid problems such as exhaustion of natural resources, ecosystem destruction, pollution, overpopulation, growing inequality, and the degradation of human living conditions’.[2]

Later in the text, Wheeler attempts to translate this specifically into an ‘urban’ context, by outlining a development framework that could be used to achieve ‘urban sustainability’ in our cities. It is here, where he draws attention to the importance of nature in the urban environment through a series of sustainable development examples, in point number four: ‘restoration of natural systems’. I will now briefly explore two of these key concepts.

Creek Restoration:

An idea that is proving very popular across the United States, the restoration of water-courses and the land surrounding them can create nature corridors, providing enhanced wildlife habitats and green space for city inhabitants.[3] The ‘Meadow Creek’ Restoration Project in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a good precedent for this, where increased ecosystem stability, improved water quality and an enhanced aquatic habitat were some of the aspects achieved in the development.[4] This approach could be particularly important in cities where previous urban development has neglected local ecology, in favour of expanding the built environment.

Figure 1: Meadow Creek Restoration Project – Charlottesville, Virginia

Urban Agriculture:

The second key method Wheeler references is the move to bring nature back to cities through urban agriculture, where ‘bio-intensive methods make it possible for urbanites to grow substantial amounts of food on very small areas of land’.[5] As an example, ‘Brooklyn Grange’ in New York utilises 2.5 acres of redundant rooftop space, growing over 50,000lbs of food each year that enhances the urban food supply and absorbs approximately 1 million gallons of storm water annually.[6] As carbon dioxide production is one of the primary climate change issues, urban agriculture could form a particularly integral part of a sustainable future, if growing food locally can assist in reducing transport related emissions.[7]

Figure 2: Brooklyn Grange Urban Agriculture Farm – Brooklyn, New York

References:

[1] NASA, Climate Change: How Do We Know? (2018), <https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/> [Accessed 19 January 2019].

[2] Stephen Wheeler, ‘Planning Sustainable And Livable Cities’, in The City Reader, ed. by Richard T. LeGates and Frederic Stout, 4th edn (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007), pp. 499-509 (p. 500).

[3] Ibid., p. 505.

[4] City Of Charlottesville Virginia, Meadow Creek Restoration Project (2019), <http://www.charlottesville.org/departments-and-services/departments-h-z/public-works/environmental-sustainability/meadow-creek-restoration-project> [Accessed 19 January 2019].

[5] Wheeler, p. 505.

[6] The Guardian, Next-gen Urban Farms: 10 Innovative Projects From Around The World (2014), <https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/jul/02/next-gen-urban-farms-10-innovative-projects-from-around-the-world> [Accessed 19 January 2019].

[7] Citylab, Big Data Suggests Big Potential For Urban Farming (2018), <https://www.citylab.com/environment/2018/02/big-data-suggests-big-potential-for-urban-farming/552770/> [Accessed 19 January 2019].

Featured Image Reference:

Citylab, Big Data Suggests Big Potential For Urban Farming (2018), <https://www.citylab.com/environment/2018/02/big-data-suggests-big-potential-for-urban-farming/552770/> [Accessed 19 January 2019].

Figure 1 Reference:

The Nature Conservancy, Meadow Creek Watershed Cleanup (2019), <https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/volunteer-and-attend-events/find-local-events-and-opportunities/meadow-creek-watershed-cleanup/> [Accessed 19 January 2019].

Figure 2 Reference:

Brooklyn Grange, Tours (2019), <https://www.brooklyngrangefarm.com/tours/> [Accessed 19 January 2019].

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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