Urban Conservation


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Photo Scott Warren

The Nature Conservancy’s chief scientist, Peter Kareiva, says it’s time for conservationists to stop neglecting urban areas. The reason is simple:  If conservation is to build the support it needs, it must energize young urban dwellers, who now make up most of the world.

What do you think? Should we care about conservation in cities?

Read the full article from Nature Conservancy magazine and then submit your comments below.

Comments from the Community

Carlos Alvarez
I agree there is so much untapped potential in urban areas - not even to mention the driving and commutes to the cities or downtown...

chsrlene depkin sasso
18 acres in downtown Lewes, DE is under review for developement of 34 home sites. This is all woodlands and wetlands which drain into the Lewes Canal, Delaware bay and Atlantic ocean. It is now a natural wildlife habitat. Citizens of Lewes would like to save it. Can you help in any way? I have been a member for many years under the name Depkin. Due to financial difficulties I have not contributed recently. Hope you can help. Save our woods and all the wildlife.

J Preston
Certainly we should care about conservation in cities. Couldn’t agree more with Peter Kareiva. Have wished for years that the Nature Conservancy would be more involved with urban conservation. Cities can be healthy places with clean air and water, and they need healthy populations of birds, bees and other insects and animals, as well as plants and people. But mega-cities are not the only urban areas we should be concerned about. Small towns and cities should be just as concerned about a healthy environment. As a resident of a small Midwestern town (pop. under 30,000) I am keenly aware of air and water pollution detrimental to the health of people, plants and animals in my town. A small town can be even more in need of environmental education and assistance than larger urban area. A few years ago I had hoped that I could work with the Nature Conservancy to help preserve green spaces in my town, but I encountered no interest from the Conservancy. I hope the Conservancy’s attitude toward protecting smaller green spaces will change.

Todd Lehman
As a soon to be environmental studies graduate, and executive director of my own nonprofit, I am a staunch advocate for environmental education, especially in urban areas. It's a concrete jungle out there, but cities do have their part part to play in global sustainability. More centralized locations equal less travel for most goods, and less travel for people in general. A car? Who needs it when I can walk? Much can be said though about the role of nature outside of the city. Without it while growing up, I don't know how much of an environmental advocate I would truly be. Possibly not one at all.

Marisol León
The biggest urban challenge is to reduce the consumption of resources and also the generation of waste. Otherwise, implementig eco-friendly buildings or urban forestry won´t produce any significant help. That is to say that, it isn´t enough to implement superficial measures, if at the end our lifestyles are demanding the explotation, fragmentation or contamination of other natural areas of the country or around the world (with its respective socio economical consecuences). For this reason, we need to accept those proposals of making greener the city but in a critical way, so that we can also look for deeper responses and solutions for the current ecological crisis...

Stella Tarnay
I think Peter is right on. I don't think it is so much a matter of which organization takes it under their wing, but that it gets done. And by THAT I mean greater awareness of wildlife in urban areas, a culture of stewardship, and active conservation initiatives. That may mean new land acquisition but more likely it will mean a new level of coexistence on existing land and our built environment. River banks, parks, street edges, balconies, backyards, and roofs. Can we imagine a bio-habitat within the roof of a large building to shelter birds during climate-induced superstorms? How can balconies be home to butterflies? Can planners accommodate lizard and mammal passages in their transportation plans? Which urban tree plantings will be most helpful to migrating birds? We need to look at the inter-section and interrelationships of grey networks and green networks for our populated areas in a new way. TNC, Sierra, Urban Land Institute, ASPCA, APA, ALSA, and many individuals and practitioners can creatively be a part of that.

Inter-Regional Conservation is a necessity for the continued diversity, sustainability, and survivability of all living things. Man's egocentric ignorance is the core of planetary civilizational development. Every urban, suburbian, and rural ecosystem should be one huge metapopulation for all species. Simply put; just as we have highways and cities for human anthrpogenic use; so too should all species have the same essential network of habitat and transmigration. We; as humans; must braoden our perspective and scope of focus; to include; accomodate;and facilitate a balanced spheric system. Consider if you will; for every species that goes from extant to extinct;that is unequivocally another minute of the clock of human life. All life on this planet is interconnected and equally important; we; the human race must start acting accordingly for our ultimate survival. So;Urban parkland systems are a very important first step to sustainable; balanced; survivability.

I agree with Maggie Eisenberger. Other groups, some of which I also support, address this sort of urban issue. TNC should not dilute its effort. Please, TNC, do not make this your focus and stick to what you have done best for decades.

Dr. Kareiva's article is correct in stating that urbanites will be unlikely to fully appreciate nature without opportunities to experience it in some form in their communities. However, very few cities maintain parks as large as Central Park, and therefore they have comparably lower diversity. Watching squirrels, jays, and crows can engender a love of nature in children, but city parks can never provide the ecosystem services we all depend on that come from protected areas few of us will ever visit. Greenhouse gases emitted by deforestation of tropical rainforests cause climate change that affects us all. Species losses caused by environmental degradation anywhere on the globe has the potential to affect us all. I cannot afford to be chiefly interested in my local natural areas, which are not really in their wild state anyway, and there are plenty of local organizations that do that work better. Please, TNC, do not make this your focus and stick to what you have done best for decades.

I agree completely with Peter Kareiva's ideas on the urban environment. Nature exists not only in forests, preserves and marine protected areas but also where we live, work and play. It only makes sense that the Conservancy should expand its initiatives to include urban conservation. The best way to build upon the conservation ethic is to make it relevant to the inhabitants of our cities where indeed most of us live. City dwellers are more likely to connect with nature through efforts to restore or enhance their local park, river, or conservation area.
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