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‘Design With Nature’ to Create Liveable Communities

FORESTS 101: The green infrastructure sustaining life on earth – “People can work together to sustainably and effectively shape natural resource use, as long as ground rules and parameters are clear, and those who work on the land are involved,” stated Robert Nasi, Director General, Center for International Forest Research


“There are five areas where investment can be made to rejuvenate the functions of degraded ecosystems. These will help protect, expand and value forests and their biodiversity, transform agriculture into perennial systems, and build sustainable value chains, with the combined support of governments and the private sector to make the transition to sustainable economies,” said Robert Nasi. “Major policy decisions will continue to be undertaken with a presumption that individuals cannot organize themselves and always need to be organized by external authorities.”

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DESIGN WITH NATURE: Stefano Boeri Architetti’s Smart Forest City plan for Cancun, Mexico, takes the concept of a green city to entirely new levels


“Indeed the effort of the smart Forest City of Cancun could make our world a better place, reducing significantly the negative impacts on the environment, possibly being a pioneer for a new kind of human settlement, a man made city for nature and biodiversity,” said Stefano Boeri. “”Thanks to the new public parks and private gardens, thanks to the green roofs and to the green facades, the areas actually occupied will be given back by nature through a perfect balance between the amount of green areas and building footprint.”

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RENATURING CITIES: “The public realm must increasingly be where we get the benefits of nature. This has historically been a ‘blind spot’ for city planners, urban designers and engineers,” stated Thami Croeser, spatial analyst at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and part of an international project team advising the European Union on planning for urban greening


“As cities have developed, we’ve been focused on transport, housing, industry and infrastructure – nature has been an afterthought, as cities get a handful of parks and street trees at best. In the process, we have often produced very grey urban environments that get hot, flood easily and are unattractive and unhealthy to spend time in. We have a lot of retrofitting ahead of us, especially as the climate becomes more extreme. The good news is the nature-based solutions (NBS) industry is maturing and there are more and more ways to help our cities go green,” stated Thami Croeser.

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IMPROVING THE PROCESS OF IMPROVING PLACES: “Storm Cunningham’s RECONOMICS Process raises the bar for community and regional revitalization. It’s a powerful package, succinctly capturing the process that we have doggedly tried to identify over time, not always knowing the next step,” states Eric Bonham, founding member, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia


“Every public leader knows that the reliable production of anything requires a process. They also know, deep down, that they have no real strategy or reliable process for producing either revitalization or resilience in their community (though few would acknowledge it),” stated Storm Cunningham. “I’ve thus spent the past two decades researching commonalities: what’s usually present in the successes, and what’s usually missing in the failures? I’ve boiled it down to six elements. Each of them individually increases the likelihood of success. The more of them you have, the more likely you are to succeed.”

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SUBURBS CAN HELP CITIES IN FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE: “The growth of the suburban footprint of cities in Australia and Canada tests the limits of the sustainability of our present way of living in terms of energy use, transportation and provision of utilities,” state Paul Maginn and Roger Keil


“The edges of cities around the world are being devastated by fires and floods. It’s drawing attention to suburban residents and the role they’re playing in exacerbating their exposure to climate change risks. But instead of focusing on the suburban way of life alone, planners and policy-makers need to focus their attention and actions on what holds it all together: the ‘brutalscape’, which is comprised of the infrastructures that enable suburban life,” wrote Roger Keil.

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GREEN SPACE AND HUMAN HEALTH: “Urban designers have a significant role to play in lowering rates of mental illness, and the data on how nature affects our brains are central to changing the ways we design,” stated Dr. Zoe Myers, Australian Urban Design Research Centre


“Research has found that people in urban areas who live closest to the greatest ‘green space’ are significantly less likely to suffer poor mental health. Urban designers thus have a significant role to play in lowering rates of mental illness,” stated Zoe Myers. “Successful parks and urban green spaces encourage us to linger, to rest, to walk for longer. That, in turn, provides the time to maximise restorative mental benefits.Compare this to urban areas that employ creative uses of incidental nature to capture attention and offer genuine interaction.”

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‘BLUE’ SPACE AND HUMAN HEALTH: “My colleagues and I are eyeing what planners call the water-centric city, or ‘sponge city’. Blue urban design – alongside green – may well be an agent for promoting mental health and not just an amenity,” stated Jenny Roe, University of Virginia


“Officials are increasingly recognizing that integrating nature into cities is an effective public health strategy to improve mental health. Doctors around the world now administer ‘green prescriptions’ – where patients are encouraged to spend time in local nature spaces,” wrote Jenny Roe. “Much of this research to date has focused on the role of green space in improving mental health. But what about ‘blue’ space – water settings? A few studies have shown that water bodies score just as well – if not better.”

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GREEN SPACE AND HUMAN HEALTH: “Urban greening is emerging as a key part of the solution to some of our major health and environmental challenges,” stated Sara Barron, lead author for a collaborative effort by Australian, Canadian and American researchers


“Cities around the world are facing major challenges. Industrialised nations are experiencing epidemics of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and dementia, and it would be all too easy to give up hope of finding solutions. But there is positive news,” said Dr. Sara Barron. “A growing body of research reveals that spending time outdoors in and around trees, parks and gardens can boost our physical and mental health and help prevent a wide range of diseases.”

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URBAN FORESTRY AND CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION: “As more cities begin to link their current climate change activities to the benefits of carbon sequestration and storage through the management of urban forests, the climate benefits provided by trees will only continue to increase,” stated Dr. Lauren Cooper, Forest Carbon and Climate Program, Michigan State University


“Why aren’t more cities explicitly linking the CO2 sequestration benefits with their urban forests? With varying city size and capacity, the answer is not simple. While there are examples of cities incorporating forest carbon storage and sequestration policies into their planning, these are limited, and often only in our largest cities,” stated Lauren Cooper. “Many cities are not quite comfortable taking a leap into climate mitigation claims and calculations.”

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BUILDING RAIN GARDENS IN THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY ERA: “Community engagement and green infrastructure are powerful partners for building climate resiliency. Our vision is to scale up this work and encourage our partners to embrace this winning partnership as significant levers for change,” stated Dr. Joanna Ashworth, Project Director, North Shore Rain Gardens Project (Metro Vancouver)


“One rain garden does not seem like much in the face of so much road water runoff that is sending containments into our salmon bearing streams and rivers, but scaled up, green infrastructure like rain gardens capture and filter large volumes of runoff, thereby reducing flow and pollutants and better protecting species. These green approaches are also more cost effective than replacing municipal storm water infrastructure: and they provide opportunities for community interaction,” stated Joanna Ashworth.

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