Portland, the largest city in Oregon, is frequently recognized as one of the world’s most environmentally conscious cities due to its high walkability, large community of bicyclists, farm-to-table dining, and over 4,000 hectares of public parks. According to Lonely Planet, Portland has an almost unfair abundance of natural beauty, including beautiful parks, leafy trees, vibrantly flowering shrubs lining quirky residential streets, the Willamette River meandering through town, and Mount Hood on the horizon.
Portland is championed as one of the greenest cities in the world for its forward thinking initiatives. For example, Portland has become a champion of stormwater management by implementing a Green Streets initiative to reduce impervious surface and increase urban green space to increase infiltration of rainwater. It also was one of the first cities to implement an Urban Growth Boundary, requiring increased density and compactness within the city while protecting farmland and natural areas outside of the boundary. Portland also boasts one of the highest parks per-capita acreage in the nation, including large natural areas such as Forest Park and Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Portland’s proximity to nature in and just outside the city makes it an ideal city for biophilia.
Birmingham, a one-time industrial giant in England’s West Midlands, has pioneered a comprehensive, integrated approach to environmental and health-related problems. Much of this new philosophy can be seen in the Green Living Spaces Plan, which includes a proposal for creating access to Birmingham’s impressive network of rivers and canals, making it the basis for a citywide grid of trails and pathways. Revitalization of the canal system in the city center has increased visitors who come to enjoy the waterfront atmosphere. Despite the city’s reputation as a gray industrial locale, it has ample green space with many local nature reserves, like the Moseley Bog (reputed to be a childhood haunt of J.R.R. Tolkien), as well as the the 1,000-hectare Sutton Park (the first urban National Nature Reserve in the United Kingdom). Birmingham has declared its intent to be the United Kingdom’s first “natural capital city,” and has been a leading city in developing “natural capital metrics” to evaluate the ecological impacts of development projects. Birmingham has declared its intention to be green and sustainable city, and is a leader in making connections between health and nature.Read More
San Francisco, California
The cultural, commercial, and financial center of Northern California, San Francisco is also set amidst immense natural beauty. The City sits at the tip of a peninsula with the Pacific Ocean to the west and San Francisco Bay to the east. Nearby parkland includes Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Park. However, within most of the City’s hilly, dense, and highly urbanized neighborhoods, nature is limited. The City recognizes the need to ensure San Franciscans have more access to nature at the neighborhood level. As San Francisco strives to increase access to nature within city limits, it has become a pioneer in the creation of small urban spaces through programs such as Pavement to Parks, Green Connections Network, SF Better Streets, and the Urban Forest Plan. San Francisco is also an international leader in sustainability, aspiring to produce all the energy it needs from renewable sources and to become “zero-waste” by 2030.Read More
What is a Biophilic City?
Biophilic cities are cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites. Biophilic cities value residents innate connection and access to nature through abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy the multisensory aspects of nature by protecting and promoting nature within the city.
Interview with Dr. Stephen R. Kellert
An interview with Dr. Stephen R. Kellert about his new book, Birthright: People and Nature in the Modern World.
Parklets: San Francisco & Beyond
Parklets are the latest biophilic feature to invade the streets of urban America this year. The concept began in 2005 as design studio Rebar purchased a 2-hour metered parking spot in San Francisco and gave it a life of its own by bringing in sod, a bench, and a tree for the people passing to stop and enjoy.