It’s important to make space for wildlife in our growing cities
April 10, 2018
April 10, 2018
Incorporating wildlife habitats within urban development and infrastructure is the right thing to do and it aids humans too
Half the global population lives in urban areas. By all projections, this migration will only continue. Mankind has always expressed dominion over the landscape, and the imbalance at which we tread has increased exponentially since the Industrial Revolution to the point at which—particularly in the first world—it’s hard to discern if truly wild places still exist.
As the schism between the developed world and nature grows, society must consider the unintended consequences on wildlife as we urbanize. Can humankind and nature coexist? We need to answer these questions:
I was inspired to write this piece on a recent walk home. I live in Boston’s Seaport, an up-and-coming neighborhood rising on former industrial land within an active seaport. A decade ago, it was an expanse of asphalt littered with industrial buildings. Now, it’s booming with new mixed-use commercial, residential, and institutional buildings close to both downtown and Boston Harbor.
As I crossed the partially landscaped D Street Bridge, to my surprise, I found a family of rabbits living there. I paused to notice them, and—careful to not scare them away—I wondered how anything could survive such a brutal environment, made no less inviting on a frigid sub-zero evening? How did they get here, surrounded by highways with no obvious pathway? As they played, I gained respect for these resilient creatures and see it as my own bit of stewardship in highlighting their plight to make sure they stay in the Seaport and are not displaced—or worse—by development.
Despite great odds, nature seeks balance relentlessly. It thrives in the oddest places. This realization and my stewardship of the Seaport rabbits made me question their survival in the face of impending development. I want to find a way to keep them there and thriving, not at the expense of development, but by using development as the mechanism by which man and wildlife can coexist in harmony.
There are already many efforts underway across the globe to return biodiversity in urban areas. Below are a few ideas which could inform habitat-sensitive development:
As the schism between the developed world and nature grows, society must consider the unintended consequences on wildlife as we urbanize.
You may have guessed by now that I am an animal enthusiast. I’ve had the pleasure of living in many areas—rural, suburban, and urban—each existing within a spectrum of natural balance. From these diverse experiences, I’ve concluded that cities can do much more for wildlife to increase biodiversity, which reintroduces natural cycles, lowers urban temperatures, decreases runoff, cleans air, and benefits mankind psychologically. We also increase resiliency by making use of space at grade and along rooftops, providing food and insulation, among other benefits to all living things.
As we urbanize, it’s important to realize we too are part of nature. It’s our duty to take a stance. The ingenuity exists—we must be brave enough to use it.