Biophilic Cities: Expanding Its Global Network
City dwellers are sustained by daily access to abundant nature and should not have to rely solely on trips to distant parks and rural settings to experience the healing and life-affirming power of nature. That is the basic concept behind the growing Biophilic Cities movement launched by UVA Architecture professor Tim Beatley. Dr. Beatley, the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, who teaches Urban and Environmental Planning in the School of Architecture, founded the project after the publication of his book, Biophilic Cities, in 2010. The book, and the movement it inspired, highlights the importance of daily contact with nature as being integral to living a meaningful urban life, and the ethical responsibilities that cities have to conserve nature as shared habitats for both human and non-human life. Recent studies show that the world’s population living in urbanized areas is rapidly increasing, and is expected to hit seventy percent by 2050. The planning and design efforts inspiring the biophilic cities movement began with a number of geographically diverse “partner cities” including Singapore; Wellington, NZ; Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain; Birmingham, UK; and San Francisco. In 2013, Beatley hosted representatives from these cities at UVA for a launch of the Biophilic Cities Network, a global network that has grown to 15 cities including St. Louis, Austin, Pittsburgh, and Edmonton. Beatley serves as Executive Director of the network, which is committed to conserving and celebrating nature in all of its forms. Through scholarship and research, Biophilic Cities works to explore the many ways cities and city dwellers can benefit from the biodiversity and wild urban spaces already existing in cities around the world. Recently, the movement successfully obtained a two-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to assist in managing the growth of the Biophilic Cities Network. The grant will allow the network to greatly expand its reach and its impact, building on current efforts such as its Biophilic Cities Journal, articles, webinars, and speakers by providing for the creation and initiation of a web-based global collaborative platform. The platform will allow cities around the world to communicate with each other and to share insights, experiences, reports, research, and data that will help partner cities build deeper connections to the natural world for their residents towards the aspiration of flourishing biophilic cities.