Conference 2003

Conference 2003
Greening the City:
Bringing Biodiversity Back
into the Urban Environment


Social Aspects of Biodiversity in the Urban Environment

Margaret Kilvington and Will Allen (Collaborative Learning for environmental management, Landcare Research, Lincoln)

The premise of this conference is that 'greening the city' by bringing 'biodiversity' back into the urban environment is an important normative goal. However, in order to enact this, it is necessary to ask ourselves just what is the nature of this goal? Is it for fundamentally environmental or ecological reasons we might pursue it or are we after something else? It would be hard to argue that there are many instances where the conservation of unique ecological systems rests on the opportunities presented to us in an urban environment. In fact it is more likely to be the opposite. Mostly we are talking about restoration of systems and species once present or even abundant — into environments fraught with challenges for them. Surely this could be better achieved in an environment without the multifarious competing interests of urban living?

We suggest that there are many reasons for considering the goal of bringing biodiversity back into the urban environment as a social one. It may be based in a changing cultural identity, which calls for greater representation in our landscapes of the iconic symbols of indigenous New Zealand. It may be for reasons of 'holism' — a desire to see greater integration of human and non-human ecological systems. It may also be for the potential for enhancing a kind of 'nature stewardship' ethic in society that greater interaction between people and 'nature' might lead to.

If these are indeed at the root of the goal to bring biodiversity back into urban environments this has significant implications for both our interpretation of what constitutes 'biodiversity' in the urban environment, and the social processes by which we enact any landscape transformations. In this paper we will present what we consider to be some of the important ingredients of a framework for biodiversity restoration in urban environments that takes cognisance of the essentially social nature of the goal, paying particular attention to how we might work with existing community values about nature and the environment, and how to facilitate change which results in the kind of positive associations with natural biodiversity that we hope for.

Conference sponsored by:

British Council NZ
The Community Trust
Landcare Research

Follow this link to view other organisations supportive of the conference

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Last updated: July 21, 2003