Beautiful, benevolent, and soul restoring, nature waits for us to bring her home.
Importance of nature, it’s not so much that humanity has destroyed a large part of the natural world and withdrawn from the remainder.
We have also expelled it needlessly from our daily lives. Today, the number of people living in urban areas has passed the number living in rural areas.
Simultaneously, the home range of each person on average, the area traversed on a regular basis, is declining steadily.
In the cities we do not grow our own food or hunt for it.
Mostly, we pick it up at a market and have little idea of its origin.
Our eyes are fastened upon the digitized images of screens.
Even the images of nature we see are those of remote places, taken by other people.
No matter, we say—the city sustains us, and we are happy. But so are cattle in a feedlot.
They are provided with the essentials of maintenance but can never live the lives true to their species and the epic million year evolution that put them on Earth. They cannot visit the habitat in which they were born.
They cannot roam freely, explore, learn the dangers and discover the delights that shaped their bodies and brains. And to a lesser degree, the same is true of humans in most of the cities around the world.
Cities—rural villages in the beginning—have been in existence for only about ten thousand years, and then for most of the ensuing time for only a very small percentage of the population.
In Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning, Timothy Beatley shows that in creating them, we have carelessly left out part of the environment vital to the full development of the human mind.
The evidence is compelling that frequent exposure to the natural world improves mental health, it offers a deep sense of inner peace, and, in many ways we have only begun to understand by scientific reason, it improves the quality of life.
Beatley also demonstrates the many ways to design urban landscapes and buildings to bring nature into the hearts of our cities. He shows the effect of even little changes in health and economic growth.
The cost is relatively little to further such a re-adaptation to the rest of the living world, and the potential benefits are enormous.
In his recent works surveying sustainable cities in Europe and Australia, Beatley argues that although cities typically consume large quantities of fossil fuels and generate enormous amounts of waste and pollution, they are the most important centers for positive environmental change.
Beatley notes that the high population density that characterizes most cities (especially European cities) also means that land is used efficiently, that automobiles are not the primary mode of transportation, and that per-capita consumption of resources is low.
Beatley’s description of a typical sustainable city is one that is compact and walkable with easily accessible parks and green spaces. Such a city also would emphasize sustainable forms of mobility, such as public transportation and bicycles.
See also: The Benefits of a Simple Walk in Nature
Parallel to Beatley’s studies, the concept of Green Urbanism has widely been discussed by Steffen Lehmann in Australia, for instance in his book The Principles of Green Urbanism (Earthscan, London, 2010) and in the journal S.A.P.I.EN.S.
In Beatley’s view, a city exemplifies green urbanism if it strives to live within its ecological limits, is designed to function in ways analogous to nature, strives to achieve a circular rather than a linear metabolism, strives toward local and regional self-sufficiency, facilitates more sustainable lifestyles, and emphasizes a high quality of neighborhood and community life.
Beatley uses these six points to define Green Urbanism as a different type of New Urbanism, and therefore an ecological movement, although others have interpreted Beatley’s definition to be simply an alternative type of urban design.