In many parts of the world, doctors are now prescribing ‘time in nature’ to their patients. Being in nature lowers the fight or flight response in our brains and allows us to better deal with the world. Why then wouldn’t we bring more nature into our living spaces? Studies from Vancouver, Baltimore and Chicago have shown that acts of crime or violence both diminish when greenery and trees are added to community streets. Trees also remove nitrogen, sulphur and carbon dioxide; and an increase of just forty percent tree cover can cool temperatures in a town or city by up to 5 degrees C (9 degrees F).
Why do we need this response?
Apart from the obvious benefits to human stress levels and to city temperatures in an increasingly warmer climate, bringing nature into our living spaces also reconnects us, and our children, to nature. Distance from nature can breed apathy towards environmental concerns at a time when we can least afford apathy. People who do not know simply do not care. Having children involved in the wilding of our towns and cities, naming and connecting with various plant and animals, will be a crucial aspect of regeneration.
Like all collective responses, navigating the existing policies and structures will be difficult and important work. Some regions and municipalities of the world are more amenable to incorporating nature than others.
How are others attempting to bring nature into their living spaces?
There are many ways in which people around the world are attempting to find solutions to this concept. Below is a small sample. If you have any further examples that you think should be on this list, please get in touch.
The Italian architect, Stefano Boeri, is creating the world’s first urban forest city in Guangxi, China. The city has been mounded to imitate the surrounding mountain landscape. It will house thirty thousand residents, forty thousand trees and a million plants. It will absorb ten thousand tons of carbon dioxide every year and will be connected to nearby towns via efficient railway and roads reserved exclusively for electric vehicles.
In response to the destructive floodwaters that have overwhelmed drains and swept through many of China’s cities in recent times, the ‘sponge city’ has emerged. These are cities with green, natural spaces where rain and floodwater can be absorbed, including rooftop gardens, restored wetlands, lakes, and new parks. Porous materials are used in sidewalks and streets and captured water is stored in underground tanks where it is available for use. By 2030 China plans to have 80% of its cities be ‘sponge cities’, absorbing two-thirds of the rainwater that falls on them.
Carbon architecture is a design movement that replaces the raw materials used in building construction with bio-based materials that can sequester carbon. Instead of building with rocks (steel and cement), it makes buildings out of fibre. The raw materials used in carbon architecture are primarily wood, dirt (clay), bamboo, straw and hemp, all engineered to compete with steel, cement, brick, and stone in durability, fire resistance, and structural strength. Currently, the world’s tallest timber building is found in Vienna, Austria and stands at twenty-four-storeys high.
In Europe, India and other countries, micro forests of diverse, native species are springing up in urban areas and even on abandoned tennis courts. These small pockets of wilderness are bringing back life, including pollinators, to otherwise degraded areas of the community. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wants to make half the city green by 2050. He plans to do this by creating 4 inner city urban forests and by making London the world first National Park city.
Vacant lots, car parks, rooftops, parks, median strips, warehouses - all are capable of growing nutritious food gardens for urban communities. These gardens also spring to life with birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators connecting people and children to nature in urban settings. While all cities have different available space, a recent study in Cleveland, Ohio showed that if 80% of its vacant lots were converted to vegetable plots, and chickens and bees were added, the city would be supplied with half its fresh produce, 25% of its poultry and eggs and all of its honey. If rooftops were added, all of its fresh produce needs could be met.
Regenerative actions for you to implement
We believe every one of us has a role to play in Regeneration. If you are interested in helping to bring nature into our living spaces here are some actions we have identified for you to implement into your life.