Bringing nature back into cities

Date: 08, Apr, 2020
Author(s):   Mata, L., Ramalho, C.E., Kennedy, J., M. Parris, K.M., Valentine, L., Miller, M., Sarah Bekessy, S., Hurley, S., Cumpston, Z.
Publisher: People and Nature

1. Protecting nature is a fundamental aspect of local and Indigenous cultures that has more recently become an urban sustainability goal. The benefits provided by nature to people and other species have sparked an upsurge in research exploring how best to manage existing nature in urban environments. Here we expand this focus by drawing attention to an emerging pathway of research and practice that is engaged with the idea of bringing nature back into cities (BNB). 2. We argue that BNB could be a vital force of the 21st century urban‐sustainability agenda. However, the enthusiasm of practitioners and policymakers for incorporating BNB objectives into local and global strategies remains uneven. As interdisciplinary scholars involved with the theory and practice of caring for urban nature, we believe that the time is ripe to present a fresh perspective on seven key areas that can unlock the potential of actions to bring nature back into cities. 3. Specifically, we: (a) argue that the sovereignty of local and Indigenous knowledge‐systems be acknowledged and respected; (b) contend that the choice of bringing nature back actions should be driven by inclusive decision‐making; (c) discuss advances in ecology that need to be addressed to facilitate the return of nature into cities; (d) outline how the diffusion of innovation theory may assist communication of BNB actions to stakeholders; (e) discuss how built‐environment professionals can demonstrate the value of urban infrastructure for BNB; (f) call for longitudinal research to understand, quantify and qualify the benefits of BNB actions and (g) consider solutions needed to address concerns about potential risks and disservices associated with actions to bring nature back into urban environments. 4. Taken together, these perspectives, and the transdisciplinary framework that emerges from them, embody theoretical innovation regarding how to bring nature back into cities and a holistic view of how to make this happen in practice. Bringing nature back into cities has the potential to become an environmentally just and culturally inclusive dimension of the 21st urban sustainability agenda upon which future generations of city‐dwellers rely.