The natural world in the city

My last post reflected on how (wo)men engage in our natural environments, particularly in the mountains, using the example of the Chamonix Mont Blanc valley.

But when we come (back) to our urban environments, how do we reconcile with the benefits of a city life with our desire to (still) engage with nature? What is the relationship between the natural world and the urban world?

When we think about the cities we live in and travel to, a symbol of high quality of life is often linked to greenery, access to nature and how this is embedded in a city’s lifestyle. Often this may be part of a city planner’s job – to integrate more green spaces into a cityscape. Thus we find ‘signs of the natural world’ in the city. Potted plants, trees, grass, flowers, all (deliberately) adapted to our urban environment.

We have built cities ‘on top’ of nature, covering up our earth, soil, sand and mud with cement to walk, run, bike and drive on. We have imposed cement on it, to constrain it, limit it and prevent our feet from ever touching it in a city space. But sometimes nature (often in the shape of unwanted weeds) breaks through these constraints, these concrete cracks and finds a way to breathe, find light and life despite us.

However, the conflict is ongoing. We like nature in the city but it needs to be limited. Confined to the ideals of natural beauty which we define ourselves. Unruly weeds that break these borders and find a way past the concrete are often punished and destroyed.

Killing weeds


5 thoughts on “The natural world in the city

  1. Excellent post (and pictures!). I love when you write that nature “finds a way to breathe”. We should remember that we are simply guests here and let nature rule much more often. It seems that there is a new trend in this direction though. I ve seen much more solar panels and plants recently in the streets of Bangkok and Paris. Hope it will continue.. Thanks again for sharing this great post, definitely food for thought..


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