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Finding nature in the city

 
author
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Location: Gabriola, BC, Canada
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Hi all -- I noticed in an earlier thread some discussion about the joys of living in the country compared to in the city, for access to nature and all its benefits. I live in the country now, more or less, and I love the ease of access to forest and shore.

I'm thinking about city-dwellers, though, since many friends and family live in cities ... and of course world wide most people live in cities! And most people are also really busy, so time to go to parks or other official natural areas are limited. I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions for ways city-dwellers can access nature without being out of the city?

When I lived in Seoul (15 million people plus!) I found street trees really important. I used to pat them while I waited for the bus. What other things did I miss?

 
garden master
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Location: Missoula, MT US Hardy:5a Annual Precipitation: 15" Wind:4.2mph Temperature:18-87F
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I'm with you, there! I love street trees!

I also like visiting retention ponds and the nature spaces around them.
 
author
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When I lived in San Francisco, I was thrilled to be living close to Golden Gate Park and not too far from the beach. Having nature close by in a large I've found essential just to balance the craziness of an urban setting. And yes, trees play a big role in that. The resiliency of trees in cities is so admirable!
 
pollinator
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Location: North East Ohio USA (Zone 6b)
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If I lived in the city I would do my best to fill my home with plants. Looking at them, touching and caring for them definitely gives you a little "dose" of nature. Also I'd look for a community garden or a vacant lot or empty space and see if it would be possible to do some gardening. Gardening is a great way to get back in touch with the natural world. Getting your hands in the soil, surrounded by green growing plants is a good "dose" of nature too. Good way to create an easily accessible little slice of nature.
 
Andres Edwards
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Yes... Not only having plants at home but also having plants in the workplace has been studied and shows the benefits in terms of productivity, relaxation and happiness. Biophilic design focuses on how we integrate the built environment with nature. How do we bring our innate affinity with nature into our buildings? How do we more seamlessly have an indoor/outdoor relationship with nature in our buildings? The interior colors, patterns, natural light, water features and plants all impact our well being. Human centered design is also a focus in architecture where we delve into human behavior and design buildings that support the way that we interact in the workplace.
 
master steward
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When I lived in a city, I loved to just take walks in the neighborhood.  Sometimes it might be a street over where I never traveled.  I found many beautiful flowers and trees.

Now I am surrounded by so many wildflowers that all I have to do is look out my window.
 
Andres Edwards
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When I've lived in cities, I've been drawn to public parks. Daily walks and runs in parks would help me get centered and I can still remember the pleasure of a summer breeze while strolling through the trees or a path in a wooded area. Also, focusing and enjoying the flowers would bring me back to the origin of their species. It would make me think about the tremendous diversity and adaptation of nature. I remember making a point of doing the activities that bring me joy and going to the park to do them: reading, walking, biking, and simply observing the world around me.
 
pollinator
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I think that certain cities have more outdoor benefits than others. For example, where I live (Harrisburg, PA) we have multiple parks/greenspace within the boundaries or very nearby. We also have the benefit of being bounded on one end with a river that is roughly a mile wide, filled with islands and archipelagos, which gives us plenty to kayak or boat to, and then to go and explore. PA also has a ton of game lands, so where we are you can pretty much throw a dart in any direction and hit protected natural areas. We've often thought about leaving the city and moving to an off-grid or close to off-grid location, but we always come back to all the creature comforts that we have here. We are located in a major migratory bird route, so there are so many more birds to see here than some of the other places we have lived, but I can also make a five to ten minute (or less) trip to ethnic grocers or farmers markets for great prices on veggies, meat, dairy, bulk spices, grains, or rice. We have parks here that have a very diverse offering, and contain many varieties of trees, plants, mushrooms (even morels in our city, lol), that it is hard for us to ever actually want to move. We occasionally have deer/fox/black bears come through our neighborhoods, the foxes used to come through our back yard pretty often, so I often "feel" like I'm out in nature even though we aren't. When we want to get away to the woods, we can take a quick drive to the closest mountain ridge and hike all day. I've lived in other cities where "green" was a lot harder to find.
 
Andres Edwards
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I agree that some cities have much more green spaces that others. It sounds like Harrisburg, PA has the benefits that come with being in a larger city as well as nature all around you. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area also is somewhat unique for a large city and metropolitan area that has large amounts of open space nearby. There is the Bay but also many parks and trails that meander through the hills nearby. Because traffic is quite heavy most of the time, it seems that people tend to stay fairly local and do outdoor activities closest to where they live, which makes sense. I agree with the challenge of trying to balance the cultural benefits of living in a city with the access to nature!  
 
Denise Kersting
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To Andres, yes, I do think HBG might be a little more predisposed to green space than many cities, for example our expo center is the Farm Show complex. The farm show is a big deal here. In retrospect, I don't think we are like most "cities," we are a small town, that thinks its a big city (we are in the capital, but much smaller than Pittsburgh or Philly). The city is really only just under 12 sq miles, and we are surrounded by mountains to the north and farming land all around (Lancaster, Lebanon, Ephrata, etc.). In other areas I've lived, I have even found nature in the older cemeteries, many have beautiful trees or landscaping and can be a nice place for quiet reflection. My husband is from the Bay area and loved sailing there.
 
gardener
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Encouraging green roofs and walls is a good way to bring more nature into the city. I'm sure I read a study of green roofs in Germany that demonstrated they increased the number of birds, bugs and even amphibians.
 
Andres Edwards
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Hearing about Harrisburg, makes me want to see it! And green roofs do indeed attract birds another wildlife. What's really interesting about green roofs is how the seeds from the area eventually land on the roof and many unexpected plants grow there. It's also a fun place to grow berries!
 
gardener
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It's complicated, but a growing movement is to install community food forests in cities! I'm becoming a part of that. Beacon Hill Food Forest is one such example (Seattle)
 
gardener
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England has some of the greenest cities in the World. My hometown of Southampton has many parks and a beautiful common, well used by joggers, dogwalkers, families, and, as I saw the last time I was home, quiddich practice!
 
pollinator
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Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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Such large cities (milions of inhabitants) don't exist in the Netherlands. In my youth I lived in the outskirts of Rotterdam. That's one of the largest cities of this country. It had a lot of 'nature'. Parks with green grass, colourful flowers, large trees, water with ducks swimming in it. Back in those days there were even frogs in the ponds. Now I live in a small town in the eastern part of the country, surrounded by nature (heather, forest, lakes).
Nowadays nature isn't anymore like it used to be ... But still I see 'weeds' growing in cracks between concrete, small and large birds picking crumbs of bread and people enjoying their balcony with a 'square meter garden' on it
 
pollinator
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It is hard, but because it is hard, it is all the more precious. plant *something*, anything, even if it is herbs on a window sill.
When you feel low, stare at it intently, up close and personal and make believe you are a tiny animal in a forest of basil. Sounds silly but it always gave me a lift.
Buying cut flowers, if you can afford them, or forcing bulbs in the winter are another way to beat the blahs of the city [and the winter blues.]
Dandelions in the cracks... I never stepped on them and I would blow their seeds. When I first came to this property and started raising bees, I went as far as vacuuming my lawn when the dandelion seeds came up so I could reseed them elsewhere.
 
Posts: 108
Location: Youngstown, Ohio
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We live in the city..albeit an old and shrinking one (Youngstown, Ohio) and have the most lovely urban Permaculture garden.  The land bank sold us the 3 plowed under and abandoned lots behind us for cheap, now we pay $33 a year for taxes.  The houses are coming down like an avalanche around here (12 within a few blocks in just the last few weeks)...wish I could plant them all!  Anyways, since they were abandoned lots and now they are flourishing, we call our little garden and herbal business UnAbandoned.  Enjoy the view.  
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James Landreth
gardener
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Cris Fellows wrote:We live in the city..albeit an old and shrinking one (Youngstown, Ohio) and have the most lovely urban Permaculture garden.  The land bank sold us the 3 plowed under and abandoned lots behind us for cheap, now we pay $33 a year for taxes.  The houses are coming down like an avalanche around here (12 within a few blocks in just the last few weeks)...wish I could plant them all!  Anyways, since they were abandoned lots and now they are flourishing, we call our little garden and herbal business UnAbandoned.  Enjoy the view.  



Cris, I really think that people like you (and the planting you do!) will help give these declining places a future someday! It looks like good things are happening in your backyard!
 
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