THE CITY WITHIN A GARDEN: “Human beings need contact with nature and the natural environment. They need it to be healthy, happy, and productive and to lead meaningful lives. Nature is not optional, but an absolutely essential quality of modern urban life.” – Tim Beatley, Biophilic Cities Network

Note to Reader:

The following is an excerpt from an article published by Next City about Life After Carbon: The Next Global Transformation of Cities, by Peter Plastrik and John Cleveland, published by Island Press. In it, the authors identify 25 “innovation labs” around the world — cities reinventing themselves to combat climate change. In the Next City article, they discuss cities that have embraced green infrastructure as a means of “renaturing” the built environment.

Peter Pastrik is co-founder and vice president of the Innovation Network for Communities (INC), established in 2007. Along with John Cleveland, he was a founding consultant to the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance and helped it develop its strategic plan and Innovation Fund. He has been the lead author on several INC reports about cities and climate change: “Essential Capacities for Urban Climate Adaptation,” supported by the Summit Foundation, and “Leadership by US Cities Innovations in Climate Action,” supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies. 

John Cleveland spent the first 12 years of his life living in small Indian villages on the Yukon River in Alaska that are now “ground zero” for climate change impacts. Living in remote wilderness gave him an appreciation for the power of Mother Nature and the truth of the admonition “Don’t mess with Mama!”  He is coauthor with Pete and Madeleine Taylor of “Connecting to Change the World: Harnessing the Power of Networks for Social Impact” (2014). 

How some cities are restoring nature and tapping the power of ecosystems to enhance and protect urban life

“In modern times, the city has been thought of as the dominant context in the natural environment; its physical, economic, and social needs were to be met by shaping the landscape near and far. Cities cleared and built upon the land, sweeping away natural habitats and species…. Their inhabitants lost direct connection with the natural world and its processes,” wrote the authors in The City within a Garden.

“The emerging idea inverts the modern-city hierarchy, restoring nature, instead of the city, as the dominant context…. The city remains the shaper of its built environment, but it shapes with an altered perspective.

“Part of urban renaturing is a restorative exercise, a way to reinstate balance and sustainability to the city’s relationship with nature. Another part introduces new designs to a city’s space.

“When cities renature themselves, they pursue three distinct, interrelated applications of the idea. They expand the use of green infrastructure. They protect and enhance ecosystems and biodiversity. And they provide people with ways to immerse in nature.”

To Learn More:

To read the complete article, download a copy of The City within a Garden.

The Biophilic Cities Network

In the article, the authors reference the work of Tim Beatley, the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, in the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, at the University of Virginia. The Biophilic Cities Project, begun by Tim Beatley, aims to explore innovative ways cities can incorporate nature into design and planning. Much of the work of the Biophilic Cities Project has focused on certain cities around the US and the world. A goal is to encourage these cities to share their stories and insights and begin to help each other to better integrate nature into their planning and management.

Biophilic cities are cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites. Biophilic cities value residents innate connection and access to nature through abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy the multisensory aspects of nature by protecting and promoting nature within the city.