7 min read

Nature & Parks Post-Pandemic

The 15-Minute City // GenZ activists' mission to clean up parks // How widespread is this trend of tree inequality?

Hello! I’m excited you have decided to join me. What is this new newsletter? Well, let me do my best to explain, and provide you with some background about me and my goals with this newsletter.

First, I walk everywhere. I am fascinated by pedestrian infrastructure and how it connects us to public spaces, parks and other greenspaces. For the last 15 years, I’ve spent as much time as permitted walking public spaces and making photographs around these themes. Along the way, I’ve tapped into the flow of information and media produced around these topics to learn as much as I can. I have been sharing a handful of articles on my Twitter feed and in my newsletter on walking and photography.

But now I want to expand those efforts in a dedicated newsletter. I want to be clear. I am not an expert on parks, trees or hiking. I am very much a novice still learning, so this newsletter should not be viewed as coming from an industry expert. It’s a newsletter coming from a student eager to learn more and connect. My hope is that if you are interested in these topics as well that this newsletter can act as a gateway and connection to new ideas that can help you develop a deeper appreciation for parks, trees and trails.

Along the way I will probably make mistakes! I miss things. I will probably make some statements that aren’t well thought out! I am ok with that and welcome all feedback and discourse. I am here to learn and grow, and I hope you join me, and share this with others that might find it beneficial.

Ok, let’s get to the first issue!


Will the Newfound Appreciation for Nature Continue Post-Pandemic?

The Nature Conservancy asks “Will Nature Go Mainstream in 2021?” I hope so! In the article they share five ways that the pandemic has shown us the importance of nature, and offer some solutions on how we can build on these efforts for a more sustainable relationship with nature as we battle the impacts of climate change.

In the section on travel and ecotourism, they share this innovative approach to funding in the Seychelles.

Fortunately, there are many ways that nature generates value and sustains local communities. Blue Bonds for marine conservation offer one approach. TNC has pioneered this strategy in the Seychelles, leveraging public grants and commercial capital to restructure the nation’s sovereign debt and invest a portion of the savings in new marine protected areas and a diverse range of nature-positive economic opportunities. A stretch of the Mesoamerican reef off the coast of Mexico offers another example. A parametric insurance policy delivers a payout when the reef is damaged by heavy storms, ensuring the reef ecosystem is sustained and continues to protect the local community—and the tourism industry there that depends on the reef. Expanding strategies like these that both protect biodiversity and support the livelihoods of local communities will be essential for long-term environmental progress.

The Concept of the 15-Minute City is Catching On in the United States

Journalist Andy Hirschfeld has a nice write up in Yes Magazine that provides a nice overview of the 15-Minute City, a concept that aims to provide residents of cities with everything they need within 15 minutes of their home. He covers some of the developments in New York City, as well as Houston which might not strike you as pedestrian friendly city, but has been making some interesting strides.

Of particularly interest to me is the idea of ‘parklets’ and creative placemaking.

Pop-up parks and outdoor cafes taking over the streets, as they are in New York City, are often referred to as “parklets.” Parklets have been considered a stable tool in the tactical urbanism playbook, and now have become a mainstay in city streets across the country.

“A lot of what you’ve seen around the country with outdoor cafes that have been put in, the pop-up parks, the streets that have been partially closed off creates more pedestrian space—that’s a big trend cities are making use of and they really needed during the pandemic,” Rob Steuteville says.

Gen Z Activist Inspires With His #EarthCleanUp Project in Eaton Canyon

Outside Magazine has a nice interview with young activist Edgar McGregor where he talks about his inspiring project.

McGregor is not yet old enough to drink alcohol, but he’s been a climate activist for years—he was recognized for his amateur climatology work at 17—and he’s headed to San Jose State to study meteorology and climate science in the fall. He’s dubbed this latest project #EarthCleanUp and is documenting it on his exceedingly charming Twitter page. (His March announcement that Eaton Canyon was “completely free of municipal waste” garnered over 100,000 likes.) It is the best way he knows to address environmental degradation and human damage: start doing something, and just don’t stop, then see where it takes you. We could all probably learn a little from his mission. We spoke to McGregor recently on a break from picking up trash.

On the Role of Individual Action: “There are a lot of environmental actions I can do and some things I can’t. I cut back on beef and fish, I pick up trash, but I can’t not drive a car, because I live in L.A. and I have to get to work. So I say, pick something, really anything, and then be vocal about it and about why you’re doing it. Other things will follow suit.”

“I think this is something that people get mixed up: individual action and systematic climate action are two sides of the same coin. If you don’t have individual action, you won’t have systematic change. And at the same time, when we have systematic change, it makes individual action easier. It’s a positive feedback loop. We see it in nature, too.”


Trees: New Study Shows Lower-Income Streets Have Less Tree Coverage

This excellent article from Grist covers a study which results will likely not surprise you but should reinforce the importance of equitable distribution of green spaces in our urban environments.

Beyond reversing the economic impacts of discriminatory housing policies, a more equal distribution of trees could help revitalize neighborhoods. The research suggests that a $17.6 billion investment in tree planting and natural regeneration could correct these disparities and benefit 42 million people by protecting them from heatwaves — shown to cause the most harm to poor people of color — and lowering air pollution levels while improving both physical and mental health.

“There are many problems facing the US, so I’m not going to pretend like tree cover is the most important problem,” McDonald said. “But it relates to all these conversations about climate adaptation, climate change risks, and also health outcome and income inequalities that we’ve seen play a big role during the pandemic.” .

Learn the History of Maple Grove Forest Preserve in Suburban Chicago

Places Journal is a favorite of mine and I really enjoyed this long essays from Scientist Andrew L. Hipp on the history and richness of Maple Grove Forest Preserve in Illinois. There are some nice photos in the essay as well, which ties the entire piece together nicely. It’s this kind of attention to green spaces that I find incredibly inspiring these days.

Maple Grove is a palimpsest, written and overwritten with diverse histories: the origin and extinction of forest tree species, department-store fortunes, civic pride and self-interest, glacial recessions, colonial expansion, international shipping routes, viruses, and kids in a pandemic summer, dirt-biking and building forts from the bark of downed ash trees. Maple Grove is an evolving response to the questions, What species will control the canopy one hundred years from now? How do human choices form Maple Grove?

Art: Gathering Growth

Gathering Growth Foundation works to visually preserve the legacy of significant trees and forests in the United States.

Since 2017, Brian Kelley has documented 122 champion trees around the US as an ambassador for American Forests Big Tree Program. In 2019, the Gathering Growth Foundation was formed to expand upon this archive and put more emphasis on US forests and other trees of significance.

I love this project. The photographs are beautiful and it’s an important conservation mission.

gatheringgrowth.org


Further Reading