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Biophilic Cities Network

Wake up. Eat breakfast. Watch the news. Watch the traffic report. Become part of the traffic report. Work. Eat lunch. Work. Hope traffic isn’t too bad on the way home. Arrive home later after multitudes of traffic. Eat dinner. Hang out with friends. Come home. Pet dog. Go to bed. Repeat.

This is largely what my first week working as a VISTA with Texas Parks and Wildlife looked like and presumably what many others who work office jobs also experience. As someone who cannot sit at a desk for more than thirty minutes without doing pushups, this transition has been hard and finding time to spend outdoors has been even harder. Halfway through the week, sitting in another brick and mortar building listening to Tim Beatley speak about biophilic cities, I could feel myself getting stressed about every little thing as I had only spent forty-five quality minutes outdoors in the past 72 hours. Ironically, I was proving Tim Beatley’s point and demonstrating just how important biophilic cities are.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a biophilic city, it was first coined by Stephen Kellert, who believed that humans have an innate connection to nature and the need to fulfill this connection is not optional. With more than 50% of the population living in cities, The Biophilic Cities Network aims to give everyone easy access to nature daily by placing nature at the heart of urban planning. As decades of research has shown us, getting outside leads to healthier bodies, healthier minds, higher self-esteem, and higher confidence, just to name a few. This is part of the reason why Tim Beatley took a whole new approach to getting people outside, by bringing the outdoors closer to home.

Many of the biophilic cities in Beatley’s Network are taking creative approaches to getting their inhabitants connected with nature. Singapore, one of the most prominent biophilic cities in the Network, has adapted numerous methods to integrate nature into the city. One of their methods is their replacement policy, which deems that any greenery that is torn down to make way for a new building must be put back at least to a 1:1 ratio by vertical placement. Thus, ending up with buildings like this one, with gardens placed on rooftops and other open, outdoor spaces.

However, other cities in the Network have chosen less complex approaches to bringing nature to the people. Some cities have created e-mail addresses for trees in the surrounding area, encouraging people to write loving messages to those trees. In turn, the trees write back, creating a digital yet meaningful experience with nature.

These were just two of the many ways biophilic cities have gone about creating more enriching experiences with the outdoors. But not all integration of nature into our lives must involve this much city planning and this is where I challenge you.

Among the topics brought up in the lecture was the Random Acts of Wildness Challenge—a thirty-day challenge to try and bring a little bit of nature into your daily life. This was appealing to me as I sit in a cubicle for forty hours a week and thus I’m challenging myself to spend quality time outside daily while also challenging myself to inspire others to do the same—getting as many people as I can to participate with me at least once. To begin, I am challenging you to the same task.

If you’re up for the challenge, feel free follow along with me, posting your various activities on social media. See how many people you can inspire to do it with you, see how we can raise awareness for the need of connection with nature. To find some ideas on what to do you can visit, Nature Rocks Texas (http://www.naturerockstexas.org/) or the challenge page at http://www.mywildlife.org.uk/30dayswild/.