Redefining Cities and Nature


Redefining Cities and Nature

Here is the link to the Copenhagen Zoo controversy:

And the Zoo’s official rationale:

Herein lies some interesting moral and ethical debates! E.g:

  • Rights of animals vs humans – how do we value the rights of each?
  • Can we extend the just-sustainability to include animals? Might be useful to think of communities the have lived alongside animals e.g. indigenous ways of life vs industrial food system. Urban networks for animals depend on scales, species and context.
  • Animal ownership – do we restrict ownership? Regulations e.g. zoning (Illogical or purposeful…) affects use of space
  • Particular spaces may be more suitable for incorporating nature and animals
  • Is there a conceptual or idealogical ‘hang-up’ of cities being outside of nature? This is also partly cultural and institutional (think of the Garden City movement etc and how colonial ideals are transplanted in other contexts)… There might be  a transition away from the human-nature dichotomy e.g. Biophilic Cities
  • Cadillac and Ford adverts:

We also spoke about ecosystem scales and patchiness and the importance of measuring at different scales. Patch dynamics – how much land area is available for particular species – as an indication of biological diversity. Applying this principle of landscape ecology to the urban enters an interesting conceptual terrain because the idea of an ‘urban ecosystem’ is relatively new. Grappling with how to merge the study of ecosystems with human systems, what do we have to measure? e.g. do we assess patches of wealth and poverty in addition to the density of ecological patches? Think about applications of the broader human-ecosystem model, such as urban metabolism modeling (, agent-based modeling amongst others…interesting experiments with taking a more holistic view of human-environment interactions.





3 thoughts on “Redefining Cities and Nature

  1. The concept of biophilic cities was very new to me and at the same time, intuitive. Personally, I was able to relate to many of the arguments in terms of how connecting and experiencing nature, sunlight, birds, and other elements is something innate in people to have and that it impacts our sense of well being. I find this idea attractive because it opens up the opportunity to remove the separation between nature and urban settings. Integrating humans back into natural landscapes has the potential of re-framing the way we see ourselves in relation to nature. But how do we make this happen in already built environments and large urban settings that lack space? How do we gain the political will and funding to make it happen?

    City planning as a profession does not deeply incorporate understanding of ecosystem in urban areas, but rather use nature as a commodity to serve humans needs or improve quality of life for citizens in the form of open space. While incorporating ecosystem require incorporating environmental planning with city planning. So we shall not plan for cities differently form planning for un built landscape.

    I think the article indicate that humans highly manipulated the ecosystem for their benefits, and this is absolutely true, but where is the line that we can draw between –on one hand- human needs as a single specie in the ecosystem with all their social systems –and on the other hand- the human greed and abuse of resources.

    I did not appreciate the (Human Ecosystem Model) as it just connect everything to everything.
    In the Human ecosystem Model (by Picket et al), the following questions:

    — which are the dominant social and natural phenomena and structures,
    — which feedbacks operate effectively,
    — which feedbacks operate with time lags, and so on,

    indicate that the over specification of the model is resolved by operationalization in specific cases, and is therefore obviated by empirical study. Which means that the boundary of the studied ecosystem.

    “An individual human life has no moreintrinsic value than does as individual Grissly Bear life” –Dave Forman, Founder of “Earth First”
    I couldn’t post the image here, so I shared it from facebook:

    Ecologists is interested in understanding the movement of energy and matter between different components of an ecosystems but this complex flow is not of high weight when planning for cities. The best cities can do when it comes to ecosystem is maybe to incorporate the water circle, green spaces, preserve trees and maybe consider bird migration. But the ecosystem is way complex than such basic components.

    Scale is important as usual and no class can pass without discussing it. In this context, it is about determining the ecosystem boundary and the importance of understanding the connection between the ecosystem within city boundary and the interaction between the ecosystem of the city and its surrounding landscape.

    Vitousek et al indicate that humans are alternating not only the terrestrial ecosystem but also the oceanic. And I think this confirms that wither we agree that human is part of the ecosystem or shall be seen out of it, there is no disagreement about the continuous damage the people are doing to the planet and to other species.

  3. teowickland

    Thanks for the summary. I definitely agree it’s critically important to reconceive of ourselves as natural beings and for that to be reflected in our habitat (i.e., cities). Biophilic Cities is a great start!

    Regarding the grab bag question about at what conceptual/structural level sustainability could successfully be implemented, my answer was it has to start with the way we all see the world, and then move into thoughts, discourse, politics, policy, and so forth. So what does it mean to change the way we see the world? It has to do with the frames (be they conceptual, logical, ethical, etc.) through which we understand reality. Although it is not focused on sustainability, I referred to the below report by the UK’s New Economics Foundation because it does a good job of demonstrating how frames work, in this case with respect to politics around government austerity.


    Full report (PDF):

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