Sunday, September 2, 2007
In chapter seven, Beatley enthusiastically springs from one case study to the next in an effort to demonstrate many of the green practices that are shaping European cities. Interestingly enough, much of the green development within these urban centers happens under the guidance of strong central governments that are dedicated to the sustainable urban growth. The Dutch national ecological network, for example, is not merely a local endeavor, but an endeavor that engages an entire nation and its people.
As I read through these pieces, I thought of my home in Orlando, Florida where the automobile has completely overtaken the urban environment. I can only imagine how powerful some of the projects mentioned in chapter seven could be within this city. Specifically, I like the idea of Eco Bridges and green highways. Although I am not necessarily sure that Eco Bridges could be used to connect wildlife habitats across the built environment in Central Florida, I love the idea of embellishing our highways and overpasses with natural plant life. There are so many transportation corridors in the Orlando metropolitan area that could easily be transformed into models of ecologically friendly design (or at least a version of it). And although Beatley did not mention mass transit within chapter seven, I found myself pondering the idea of a light rail system that could parallel many of these corridors in Orlando.
In the end, I do have one question about the Desfor and Keil reading. On page 50, the authors claim that most environmental movements are counter regulatory at their core, yet this notion makes little sense to me considering the politically charged nature of the piece. It seems to me that government regulation plays a major role in promoting sustainable growth in urban centers. Am I misunderstanding the author?
Breaking down the polarity in perception between nature/environment and city/urban
In Urban Ecology… Beatley acknowledges that “Americans clearly have a long way to go to begin viewing cities and urban environments as ecosystems and places of nature,” but argues that “[c]ities are fundamentally embedded in a natural environment.” Similarly, in Nature in the City, Desfor & Keil assert that humans are “an ‘urban species.’ Increasingly, the common conceptual separation of ‘city’ or ‘urban’ from ‘nature’ or ‘environment’ has to be reassessed.”
Urbanization as the solution to the problem it has created
Urban Ecology: (Hundertwasser’s basic belief that) there exists an obligation to replace every bit of nature taken in the process of construction and city building.
Nature in the City: “[C]ities and urbanity are being offered as solutions to the environmental problems found in and around them…urbanization is offered as the solution to the ills it is said to cause.” These two perspectives compliment each other in looking at the city as a solution as not only an obligation but an opportunity.
Realistic hegemony of the capitalist economy AND realistic possibilities of economic benefits of environmentalism
Urban Ecology: “The American context may require clear description of economic benefits associated with greening strategies.” (i.e.: the short-term cost of a green roof is high, but the “first-costs” are outweighed by added life of the roof.)
Nature in the City: “the rational, realist point of view that…seeks the compatibility of economic development and environmental quality by way of ‘integrated policies implemented through tangible incentives, backed by solid research, and sure and equitable enforcement,” and “there is often a fundamental, or radical, disjuncture between the goals of urban and regional economic development and environmental goals.”
Simply identifying problems does not solve them
In Nature in the City: “Strong publics are ‘publics whose discourse encompasses both opinion formation and decision making.”
Urban Ecology…: Utilization of tools such as ecological network maps “that presents a clear offensive strategy with not only problems but solutions.”
significant differences in perspective
In Urban Ecology…, Beatley mentions Ambrey’s (1994) declaration that “[p]eople are starved from greenery.” The entire chapter seems to be based on this underlying assumption; that people will have a natural inclination to implement the design ideas that are explored in order to satisfy their general biophilia. In contrast, Desfor & Keil give a much more anthropocentric perspective, and suggest that the necessary shift in global mindset, especially in the U.S., will only occur as a result of economic punitive measures and/or incentives.
I was surprised and excited by the explanation of the potential for retrofitting buildings for rooftop gardens in the Urban Ecology chapter. In another Cornell class I took, which focused on sustainability and building design, the professor had explained that there are intense load-bearing structural requirements for green roofs. So I felt like many new design possibilities had opened up again (perhaps for my future career) when I read that there are two kinds of green roofs, and that one of them does not require that the structure be designed to bear the immense load of soil. I especially appreciated Beatley’s suggestion to undertake one or more pilot rooftop retrofits to be studied, as my field of study is specifically focused on research and the built environment.
I am curious about the mention in Urban Ecology of the ability of roof gardens to extend the life of a roof. Beatley mentions this on more than one occasions but never explains how. Also, after taking a class were we studied problems with moisture in buildings causing poor indoor air quality (I.A.Q.) I was suspicious of all these plant-covered-buildings not creating some of the health-problems they hoped to solve.
I found this quote from Nature in the City extremely interesting and would like to discuss it further: “Ironically, the draconian measures of government are directly traceable to earlier government indifference to or encouragement of the people’s half-century-long pursuit of one of the American Century’s leading goals: unrestricted individual mobility.”
“In this new state architecture, the local state occupies a space where the globalization process is regulated” through various policies. (32)
Regarding some of the “global policies affecting local place” discussions in the Beatley book, I was particularly inspired by some of the transcontinental policies and networks being established, where many members of the EU were working toward a common objective. I thought that really distilled the notion that it can’t just be one town, or city, or suburb, or region, or state, or country acting alone toward sustainability. Of course it is important to take initiative, be creative, and consider issues of nature, ecology, and sustainability at the micro level, but the biosphere doesn’t heed political boundaries, so working cooperatively—and thinking cooperatively—is imperative. I mean, we have an interstate transportation system, right? So what’s to stop the US from expanding the Appalachian Trail all the way to the Rockies (besides naming conventions)? Or, for that matter, a Pan-American Trail?
Furthermore—and perhaps this is reducing much of the discussion of “globalization”—one city’s (or state’s, or country’s) choices have implications on others. Ecologically this is a commonly accepted idea; we’ve all heard about emissions from smokestacks in Michigan causing acid rain in Maine (or wherever); but, in the larger sense of sustainability, particularly economic sustainability, the logic still follows: The decisions and policies of one place, whether economic, social, or ecological, effect other places both next door and across the globe.
”The city…creates ‘fragmented identities, instantaneous connections, and constant movement.’” (33)
To me, this notion of the city as both an agent of fragmentation and connection is captured fairly well in the concept of the green wedge/finger/belt versus the implementation of pocket parks, courtyards, and green roofs. Although the greenbelt in general can be seen as an element of connectivity in the city, the smaller, disconnected instances of nature can be just as instrumental in creating an overall ecological profile, and can create unstructured uses of space that facilitate connection, movement, and identification.
“[C]ities have become an important place where the ecological crisis can be both observed in its most pronounced form and addressed in an efficient way.” (37)
Particularly in regard to local ordinances regarding water contamination (Stockholm and Berlin), habitat degradation (The Hague, Utrecht) and the like, cities in a way conspire to create ecological imbalance, but intervention by local political structures can remediate problems speedily through policy and ordinance. Unlike rural areas where governance structures may not exist, or where few people live, urban environmental policy can effectively harness the dynamism and density of city life to promote change.
My main question, though, in these readings, is the extent to which policy changes or their applications can be coordinated on the regional or superregional scale, and if so, ought they come from the local level and coalesce into something larger, or begin as large-scale plans that, by virtue of semiautonomous execution by towns and cities, become tailored to the specific place?
Nature in the City chapter 2 was not my favorite reading. I'm still trying to figure out what was said that was new. Perhaps I'll figure this out by class, or during class. For now, the only topic I found interesting was the section where discrimination upon minorities was discussed.
The most relevant point that stood out in the reading was the commitment that these city governments had to creating more sustainable cities. In these examples taken from European cities, local political leaders were exercising good government and enforcing ecofriendly policy. Furthermore, these cities furthered their commitments to the natural environment by preserving and protecting green space. In some examples, these city governments were requiring residents to plant rooftop gardens. This article really highlighted the importance of good local government and political leaders, which ties into the idea of locality introduced in chapter 2 of Nature in the City. In this chapter, Desfor and Keil outline how dynamic the local state truly is. The authors define the local state as the political space which encompasses the municipal government and they argue that this space is where policy making concerning the urban environment should take place. The reality is that Americas largely live in urban environments where environmental concerns are real and city residents are really affected by these environmental issues. As a result, cities are the most ideal places to address these issues. Furthermore, the authors argue that citizens should look to municipal and local state governments in order to find solutions to their environmental problems.
The most practical application of these two readings is to seek reform within local government. Citizens should demand that their representatives in local government be committed to protecting and preserving the city’s ecological assets and well as ensuring that the city is a sustainable system that incorporates nature into the built environment.
A number of critical concerns and questions arose while I was reading for Tuesday’s discussion. While reading Chapter of Nature in the City, I did not understand the connection that the author was making between the local state as a medium for urban environmental policy making and globalization. It seems to me that the authors were trying to argue that the local state was the ideal place to discuss one’s relationship to nature, because of globalization, which to me makes no sense. The local state is important in the discussion concerning urban environmental policy making and the relationship between nature, citizens and the built environment simply because it’s local and closest to those who are most affected by these relationships and policy making.
Both readings make a case for the existence of nature within the city, instead of nature being in opposition to city life. With the overall increase of populations living in urban areas worldwide, both texts indicate that cities have no choice but to start considering themselves to be a part of natural systems or even to function as natural systems themselves. Page 38 in the chapter on Urban Environmental Policy says that, “paradoxically, it seems, urbanization is offered as the solution to the ills it is said to cause.” Beatley suggests that properly planned cities can function as beneficial, restorative systems in much the same ways as wetland and forests.
I found it interesting that the chapter from Urban Environmental Policy identified local states as traditionally not taken seriously in the political realm. Of course, the reality of modern urban environments indicates just the opposite: grass roots and local initiatives are often what touch our lives the most on a frequent basis. For example, Desfor & Keil discuss how air-quality management decisions affect the citizens of Los Angeles. Beatley promotes optimistic local initiatives such as green roofs, ecological networks and nature policy plans that can have wide-reaching effects on both the people and the environments around cities.
Desfor & Keil also pointed out the growing trend in municipal bylaws governing environmental and public health issues and shows that cities often feel the need to create their own specific rules. Such bylaw regulations are even frequently in direct contradiction to federal and/or provincial and state regulations. While the contradictions of municipal regulations vs provincial/state/federal regulations often leads to conflict and confusion, problems can also arise when municipal organizations enact bylaws despite the fact that they often lack the expertise to make informed decisions. Conversely, the increase in local, grass-roots political action also means that issues that would not regularly be considered in the federal or state political sphere are able to be brought to light.
Although the chapter on making nature in the city was an interesting analysis of past and current political processes of urban environmentalism, I found Beatley’s chapter more inspirational and relevant because it offered concrete solutions to city problems. Overall, I appreciate a positive and solution-oriented approach and find that Beatley offered real living examples with a more applied approach to urban environmental initiatives.
One potential application of the readings to urban environments could be a local green roofing mandate where all new buildings must be built with this in mind. I know that there have been highly successful green roof initiatives in Europe, and I hope that North American cities can start to make similar strides to make use of wasted roof spaces.
Since I am from Toronto, I was engaged by Desfor & Keil’s overview of Toronto and L.A. municipal environmental policies, but I found this text was too filled with jargon and outside references to be properly digested and completely relevant to my life. Perhaps I might find the chapter on Urban Environmental Policy more relevant if I could better understand the concept of “spatial amnesia” (p.35). I am also interested in discussing who forms local environmental policies and how democracy and public opinion (Desfor & Keil’s “weak publics”) are balanced with environmental research and planning expertise in local decision-making processes.
Joan Bokaer’s powerpoint shown on the first day of class did well to illustrate the design principles discussed in Tim Beatley’s chapter on urban ecology. His discussion of the natural capital cities have which make designs like greenroofs, green walls, ecological living spaces, eco-bridges and other environmentally friendly designs possible were well illustrated in Joan’s powerpoint. This chapter offers some hope for American cities and even provides specific suggestions for modifications to our cities. Beatley draws from many other designers to describe how the city must be understood as a living environment for all species and therefore efforts must be made to make living in a city optimal for all species. Beatley also discusses the interaction between the design and the inhabitants of these cities. He mentioned that birds cannot tell that they are nesting on a tree that lives in and around a building and how children love the undulating floor of the winter garden space. The benefits of green roofs, both traditional and ecological, seem unlimited. The environmental, economical and social benefits of this type of urban design are what make these practices sustainable. Cities can evolve into sustainable places by taking slow but radical steps to metamorphose from what they are today. This is hopeful for the
The Chapter on urban environmental policy first described the current political philosophies involved in the conversation on the issues before it went on to discuss specific recommendations on making nature in the city. The primary issue addressed in this reading was that our interactions occur on a local level, regardless of the fact that our government is divided into local, state and federal governments. Many of the policy issues we see to day developed from ignoring this fact. As we become a more and more urbanized people, environmental issues are of greater concern. The authors use the regime theory to discuss the evolution of urbanization and its effect on environmental policy. Regime theory is part of a body of work “called urban political economy and is used to describe urban development policies in urban centers of
Tim Beatly’s chapter was an interesting read, but it seemed to start off vaguely. Furthermore, the design alternatives described were interesting but did were not always completely discussed. For example, I did not quite understand what eco bridges are. Do they function like a green throughway from one natural area to another or where they simply bridges necessary for urban function that had bee outfitted to cater to cyclists and pedestrians?
The chapter on urban environmental policies had some really interesting, progressive ideas, but seemed too focused on the differing philosophies on policy in general.
Each of these readings brought some new insights and supported many of the ideals already in circulation about sustainability. Each depend heavily on local decision makers using alternatives to the thoughtless capitalistic traditions this society holds so dear. Beatley’s chapter especially opened my eyes to specific modifications I can make to the house I live in to make it more sustainable. The urban policy analysis chapter challenged me to act on my beliefs, rather than just think radical thoughts and hope that the government will change. Overall, i believe that the argument for both authors is that people need to think about their role in society and in the ecosystem and draw from that role to make decisions.
He moves on to discuss the politics and structure surrounding the local state. He talks about the connection between the physical space and political awareness. It is said that political science literature often completely forgets about the space in which it exists in. I definitely agree with this i think that all too often the official and business side of poitics disconnect itself from the world in which it exists in. Next he talks about the importance of the civil society for the "constitution of the political and local state." This point is a bit confusing to me becuase i became confused about his definition of the civil society. To me the civil society is the common man, but i am worried that this is the simplifying concept to which he talks about. Next he says that the local state obtains a key position in the place of globalization in the way that they consider the urban as the place of conflict. I do not really agree with this idea about the local state i am confused as the the connection between conflict and world globalization i think that they are not productive in working together but mroe opposing factors. I could be misunderstanding the used definitions of conflict and globalization but to be they are not forces that work together. Finally he talks about the the local state is a policy arena and an active participant of a rescaling processes that has characterized the era in which we are living.
Overall he talks about discources in urban environmental policy making and makes it clear that he does not want to make either discourse nor political economy primacy more important than one another. He also breaks with common practice and does not make then either base or superstructure as many other people do.
Nature in the City - Chapter 2
The authors of both texts were most in concert around the fundamental idea that to increase sustainable practices in American cities it is essential to reassess the separation of "city" and "urban" from "nature" and "environment." By seeing our cities as seamless homes integrated into larger systems we are ultimately taking care of our own safety and welfare, yet we are also existing with the ecosystems that extend within our cities. This is paramount now that a majority of the world's population lives in an urban environment. Both authors also emphasize change at the local level as opposed to state or national. Defor & Keil are primarliy concerned with a theorectical approaches to how our local goverments function, using Tornorto and LA as examples. Beatley provides numerous case studies highlighting the successes of local projects and funding programs.
I was particulary engaged by the example in Defor and Keil regarding LA air quality and the personal restrictions put on city residents. Restrictions on personal freedoms instead of broader policy changes which would have long term effect does little to improve air quality and a lot to alienate people from becoming part of the solution of their own free will. I am reminded of growing up in California in the 80's during a major drought. City residents were discouraged and restricted from watering their lawns and gardens, bathwater was used to water plants, etc. When I contrast this example with the statistics of over 60% groundwater retention of green roofs (albeit in the drought-less Northwest) I am surprised that California did not implement a more long-term solution. However, at the local level, there have been cities such as Davis which have undertaken more "progressive" approaches.
I enjoyed being reminded in the Beatley article about the necessity of eco-bridges in the system of urban greenspaces. It was a good reminder for someone like myself who might laud a new park or greenspace without really thinking about how it connects to other habitats. We can nurture the ecosystems within which our cities live by creating these connections. I found the Defor and Keil piece a bit alienating in its theorectical approach, though the piece was very engaging and I liked the emphasis on local government. My question is about making and implementing these major changes, especially in American society. What other disciplines can we engage with to educate people not only on the importance of having fresh air and food but also on exercise and enjoyment of these green spaces we are creating?
Part IV: Green, Organic Cities
Chapter 7: Urban Ecologies and Strategies for Greening the Urban Environment
One of the first concepts that Beatley introduces is the idea of incorporating green or nature-enhancing features as a part of new, high density development projects that include natural areas in close proximity to residents and engage the public in the design process. He goes on to describe different methods of green building – roofs, walls, streets, courtyards, bridges, farms, parks, and drainage strategies. Later he describes how European cities have dealt with local climates and ecological restoration, restructuring, and conservation. One of the important things the author points out, when discussing the application of European practices to American cities, is that one of the biggest obstacles is going to be traditional ways of thinking, particularly in changing the perception Americans have of cities, and bridging the gap between what is urban and what is natural.
I think that greenroofs and natural drainage systems are among the easiest concepts to push in urban situations, particularly where there is new development occurring. New York State law requires in most situations that the runoff that leaves a site post-construction be no greater than that which left the site prior to construction. The ability of greenroofs to mitigate stormwater runoff and retain a large amount of water in the substrate greatly reduces the runoff that would be leaving a site. This combined with natural drainage systems – permeable paving, retention basins, bioswales, etc—can diminish any problems with stormwater runoff volumes. Both of the systems can also contribute to improved water quality, provide habitat and aesthetic enhancement, and be applied in urban, suburban, and rural contexts.
I found myself questioning Beatley in his claim that a national ecological network in the United States is “probably unlikely.” Although it may be challenging and require a major change in perception and attitudes toward nature and city, I don’t think it’s that impossible of an idea, especially if the network were to follow watersheds…
I read the chapter on “Leverage Point.” Leverage points are defined as small actions that bring on large systemic changes. The authors based this on several different examples of leverage points and how in each example, a small action created a larger change. This is a key point of the systems approach and shows how even a small perturbation in a system can create large feedback and significantly alter the system.
Her first example was called the “magic formula”. Her magic formula is based on the idea that once a movement is started in a single community it will spread like wild fire. This is similar to the domino theory where a small action could prove to be the start of a large movement. It supports the idea that a small grass-roots effort can grow to national attention
The next example is called the “silver bullet” approach. This method is based on the idea that a problem should be addressed at the source, not at the result. By doing so, far more issues can be avoided in the future. She uses the example of improving energy conservation and energy efficiency to fight the need for additional energy production.
Her third example is based off the Ben Franklin quote of “a stitch in time saves nine.” By addressing a problem early, the hope is that any trouble that the initial problem would have created would be removed and the problem could be eliminated before it could spread to something larger. This is a critical way to prevent large problems in the future with little effort.
Her final main point is called a “wrench in the works.” She bases this point on the idea of preventing “band-aid” solutions. Problems are often fixed with the quickest and easiest solution. These solutions make it seem like the problem has been taken care of while it is really secretly spreading out of control. The wrench in the works method relies on getting past the masks and showing where the problem really lies thus giving it attention and truly getting it fixed.
This last point brings up the idea that coverage is pivotal to having a leverage point. Only through the media, she says, can these small actions get the attention needed to create large scale change. An example of this could be seen in the environmental movement of the 70’s where citizens would bring very serious but often ignored problems to national attention, creating monumental environmental changes and laws that were revolutionary for their time. All of these points show how small actions are essential for the creation of large scale change and all can be accomplished through the simple use of leverage points.
· Cities are like forests and other natural systems. It’s important to stop separating an urban environment from a natural one. Instead treat them as one in the same where elements of both can exist.
· Asset building. The concept of building and protecting a city’s assets is a reoccurring theme in the books we have surveyed. An example in Green Urbanism is on page 199. The city of Stockholm realized how valuable their water was after they began to see its quality deteriorate. They ended up developing a comprehensive plan that treated and protected the water source from further damage. Any further development would have to fit into the plan that reflected the value of water to the city.
· Ecological Networks. Several European cities have set up ecological networks functioning at the national, state and local governmental levels. The national level provides the resources and a framework for the lower levels to work from. The higher governmental levels identify areas of interest, provide background studies, and map out the areas of ecological importance and potential. It is then up to the local areas to work out the details of the conservation plans loosely defined on the “ecological network map.”
An interesting and do-able application toward greening cities is the planting of trees in parking lots. Parking lots are often large spans of cement which contribute to storm water runoff and sewer overflows. They are aesthetically unappealing, often hot, uncomfortable places. Adding regulations that would require a tree for every three parking spaces would contribute greatly to a greener streetscape and could be a springboard toward other green projects.
When attempting to implement green projects in many small rural towns and cities, the biggest challenge is counteracting the mantra “but we can’t afford it.” Questions such as “how will we pay for the maintenance?”, “how can we afford a park when we need development that will add to the tax base?” The town where I live has about 1/3 of the property as tax exempt, and yet the city is expected to provide a full array of services such as lights, garbage and snow removal, etc. How can struggling towns and cities afford to pay for and maintain green spaces?
One of the sustainability strategies cited in Green Urbanism that I found to be very innovative is the use of green walls. Not only do they provide insulation to a building, but they also add a certain aesthetic quality and they deter graffiti artists. I would have loved to been able to look out of my office window this summer and see a greener Baltimore. I think as long as we can argue for these changes by stressing the multiple benefits for the city rather than just saying “it’s good for the environment,” we will able to be a lot more successful.
A concern I had as I was reading Green Urbanism is how well the American culture will be able to accept current European practices as practical solutions. As beneficial as natural drainage systems would be, I don’t see people in suburban America getting excited about having a swamp in their carefully manicured back yards. The author seems very confidant that the “reconceptualizing of the traditional aesthetic of the American lawn or yard [is]…certainly possible.” I don’t know if I can share his optimism. And suburbia aside, is a city resident with a minimal backyard going to want to devote what precious green space they have to a muddy mess? Many of the other practices cited by the author I believe definitely have a shot, especially the green roofs, but the less pleasant of them not so much.
In the section called "Ecological Networks:National and Urban," the author describes the process and uses of creating mappings of ecological systems. It is something that doesn't immediately seem useful, but one can see that it is in fact quite important in making visual what already exists and what is possible. It seems important to be able to show people that there is actually a vision and a plan-- one that is feasible, also economically.
He goes on to describe some of Hundertwasser's work. It seems a central theme that it is our duty, our obligation, to replace the nature we cover with unnatural surfaces. Beatley also describes green roofs, green walls, green streets, green schools, and on. All of these things are possible, because the do already exist in the world.
B) There were a few things the author described or posed as new ideas that I thought were quite useful, both in a practical sense, and also for re-imagining the way we perceive and think about cities and nature.
The first, and most important of these, is in the first paragraph: "...cities are fundamentally embedded in a natural environment." (197) If we can begin to see the cities we live in as something more or other than an entity that is separate from the natural environment, than we can really begin to think holistically about the decisions we make. We might have a new imagination of the way cities are situated in nature. They are not city vs. countryside, but each part of something more.
Another was in the description of Hundertwasser's work and ideas. Namely that we are obligated to be in a two-way street relationship with nature. I especially enjoyed his idea that tenants in a house should have the right to do what they want with the facade of a building as far as they can reach out their window. Not only is the city not so separate from nature as we want to believe, but humans are not so separate from the built environment as we think.
We are active participants, whether we choose to do something or not.
C) My major criticism is that I'm not sure how practical it is to say American cities can learn form European. It is rather my impression that we can become inspired by the parts of European cities that are working well, but then address American cities for what they are. They evolved in different ways, especially in the last 100 years.
So he gives us example after example of these idealistic European cities that have done truly incredible things. I have been there and experienced it myself. But it might not be as simple as he says. Or is it?
Let's take the inspiration, and then live up to the best qualities of what it means to be an American-- to be innovative and brave-- and really try something new.
About 75% of the population in major industrial countries such as the US and Canada live in cities. This makes a city the natural breeding ground for filth, waste and pollution. The very nature of a city results in the destruction of natural habitats and the environment which the population density and industrial stance make inevitable. This problem has become more widely recognized as more and more environmental issues such as global warming and the holes in the ozone layer spring up. As the technological age forges forward issues such as these continue to appear which calls for the need to reform and regulate. Girarder calls the human race an “urban species” yet this does not necessarily mean a destructive one.
Nature in the City has a major focus on the current age being one as a “period of crisis of the societal relationship with nature”. The advancement of globalization and new mass accumulation production techniques have been the primary culprits of this prevalent issue. Mankind is not about to reverse its way of doing things in order to save the environment, but there are many individuals who seek to alter the way they run their life to help protect the environment from further destruction. One way that people in cities have begun to do this is through rooftop garden, community gardens and wall gardens. Also, some have gone as far as creating wild animal “sanctuaries” in the city by providing food and shade for particular species of birds that are moving out of urban areas for protective reasons.
Gardens prove to be an inexpensive way to assist the greening of cities. Often though, it is not entirely economically feasible. There have been more and more grants given each year to purposes such as these environmentally friendly ideas. Zoning laws restrict many ideas that are environmentally sustainable. An example of this is a building in Manhattan that was built next to the AOL Time Warner building. It was the first building in the area to have solar panels. This was a very large issue for many years because people did not like the aesthetics of the solar cells. This is one of many barriers politically.
One very economically and politically feasible idea I have for Nature in the City is to begin something like an indoor forest. Nature in the City does not only have to be limited to outside building doors. People should start having plants in their home. It will make indoor air quality significantly better and it adds an aesthetic, socially responsible, environmental touch to an office or home. The idea would be free of political and social issues as it is your own space and not public property. Also, many great reformers have said that change begins with you. It is difficult to take on a huge task that would affect a city before you yourself try the change.
A question that resonates in my mind from the reading is that if there is a difference of opinions on nature in the city based on background. Do people who grew up in the city feel more strongly about the concept of nature in the city or do people who grew up in and around nature feel there is a need for it? Answering this question would assist in looking for ways of going about this city greening reform.
Another great feature has to do with buildings. Greenroofs and greenwalls are excellent examples of how the inner city can be greened up. Not only do these reduce energy costs, but they also prolong the life of buildings and refresh the city air. In most cities, local governments subsidize much of the cost of these green features, not because of political image, as many may think in the United States, but because of economic and aesthetic reasons. In the U.S., Chicago and New York City have been promoting the installation of rooftop gardens, but greenwalls have not yet made it into our cities.
One of the most important aspects of green European cities is that they emphasize ecological regeneration. At a time when human society is rapidly overshooting the Earth’s biological capacity to produce natural resources, it is important to work on ecological regeneration. Many European cities have taken abandoned industry sites and turned them into green spaces. In some cities, the government pays for the complete removal of pavements and the incorporation of trees. Degraded areas within the city are typically cleaned up and made green, providing great health and aesthetic benefits to city members and attracting wildlife to the city.
One can think about how greenroofs, for example, can be paid for in cities using the savings generated from reduced energy use. In rapidly developing urban areas of the developing world, for example, local governments can set local mandates (separate from any weaker national mandate) to place greenroofs in all new houses or buildings and greenwalls in every existing and new public building. They can subsidize the initial cost and then increase the user’s energy bill by whatever percentage in energy savings the greenroof would make. In this way, the city takes into account the long-term vision of making the city green.
The reading raises many concerns. For once, it isn’t clear what mechanisms local governments use to raise the necessary funds to subsidize green projects in cities. It also paints a very extreme picture, especially with the idea of having “trees coming out of windows.” But something that I think is really useful is the idea of incentives that local governments place to discourage, for example, car use and to encourage the greening of the urban environment.
One important tool that she details is an asset inventory. These inventories allow communities to figure out what assets exist within it and how they can be best used to make the community sustainable. Schools, natural resources, infrastructure, etc. are things that are valuable to the community and help sustain it. Knowing these assets and how they are being used gives a preliminary idea about whether the community is sustainable. For example, sustainable communities must know how many resources they use and how much of those go to waste. If a community uses more than what it can generate and has to depend on declining resources elsewhere, then the community may not be sustainable. Similarly, if problems within the community worsen human capital, then the ability of the community members to help sustain the community over the long-term may disappear.
Finally, communities must get together to create a vision, something they can stand by and work for. As Hallsmith explains, a vision is the roadmap to the future, a point where members want to see their community go. The examples given, such as that of Burlington, VT and Geneva, NY, show what this means. It's a clear picture of what community members want to see in their communities. This usually means a strong local economy with good jobs and businesses, an excellent transportation system, great education, green spaces, renewable energy use, and local food resources. This kind of vision is what motivates people to work as a community to achieve a medium- to long-term goal.