After months locked up due to the pandemic, we are finally back out in the world. With the joy of seeing public spaces come to life again, we may have briefly forgotten about greenery. But our need for cool areas, shade and beauty is becoming increasingly clear. These three qualities are what trees and vegetation bring to the city. This is the most common argument in favour of planting city forests.
This massive and recent invasion of concrete in our lives creates a desire to reconnect with ‘the living’, as the French novelist and philosopher Alain Damasio explained in a recent interview (in French). He eloquently describes this need we feel to be in direct contact with nature, a need that has only grown stronger during the health crisis, which may lead to high-density cities losing some of their population to suburbs and the countryside. Damasio pushes this idea even further – he believes that repairing the relationship between people and other living things is the most important issue in the transformation of our societies.
The fact remains that cities are trying to become greener. In Paris, schoolyards are turning into oases, in Barcelona, streets are becoming parks… Cities are participating in the global drive for reforestation. The crisis has only accelerated these trends by increasing the need for nature, changing mobility and the way we use urban spaces.
But of all the possible ways nature can be brought back into our “denatured” living conditions, I believe that shared gardens are the most promising solution, and they are experiencing exponential growth. They have clear potential to promote social inclusion, diversity, and provide a way to share knowledge and resources, and most importantly, they are empowering (A thesis developed by Damien Deville, among others). The city of Oakland, California, has been applying this principle by replacing its Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP) with an Equitable Climate Action Plan (ECAP) that includes a chapter on access to soil and its usage!
And this is precisely Energy Cities’ new political agenda – we must evolve from a sectorial approach to an integrated vision of all of the resources we need. Energy, materials, food, soil…
The speed at which nature is restoring its rightful place in debates, in cities, in our imaginations and in our wishes, bodes very well for the future!
June 15, 2021