A key concept of 1900 Footprints is that as a result of 70% of the world's population now resides in cities, as a whole we are largely disconnected from nature and therefore not affected to take action on environmental issues. We no longer recognise or feel the direct effects of environmental stress because we are geographically and temporally separated from the cascading effects of our collective actions.
One solution is to get everybody into 'wild' places, reconnected with healthy and normally functioning ecosystems, where we can re-learn about how everything in nature is connected and that every species has its role in making life resilient. This sort of learning and appreciation can take many forms, from a child playing in a park, to the most extreme forms of outdoor recreation.
I have come to learn that that people will appreciate different aspects of nature and each form has its place. For example, I have realised that although I am trained in ecology, I am not as enthusiastic about the study of biology as I am about just spending time in natural places and communicating about why they are important!
However, in this fast-paced world, with increasing use of technology, can we expect the majority of people to regularly find time and space for reconnecting with wild places?
In my opinion if we are to change our culture before we have drastically changed the environment, this will not be enough. Our cities are currently too isolated from natural areas and are not able to cultivate the learning of connectedness that natural spaces provide.
Alongside recreating in natural spaces and undertaking large-scale restoration projects, we need to change our cities to become friendlier to- and contain more 'natural' ecosystems. By reintroducing functioning ecosystems, or 'rewilding' our cities, we have the opportunity to allow future generations to grow with a greater appreciation about why safeguarding nature is important - for a healthier environment, and for us.
For example, there is well-established evidence that in cities, exercise in green areas improves psychological health, natural playgrounds can decrease bullying, social and family bonding can increase in areas of high biodiversity, crime rates fall in urban areas that undergo a re-greening process, and in some cases domestic violence rates fall in apartment blocks that have trees outside them.
In short, re-greening cities will not just be good for nature, it will be also be good for people.
Imagine a city-community where people’s needs for happiness, positive relationships, safety, and connection to the community and to nature are facilitated purely through the design of their urban/nature environment.
When thinking about your own local community, why not support initiatives that go a little way towards supporting this vision?
Internationally, this shift in culture and industry is taking place that will make positive differences in the way urban areas are planned and therefore have the potential to make cities positive, community friendly, biodiverse, engaging places. Let's make it happen in Australia.
Let me know your thoughts on this idea in the comments section below.