National Park Cities: Why Now?
As part of our National Park City Month events, we held an online international panel discussion on the plight of cities and what we can do to inspire change. Panelists included Dan Raven-Ellison (founder of the National Park City movement), Naho Iguchi (Ecological Artist and National Park City*Wildernisstadt Berlin co-founder), Liteboho Makhele (Programme Manager Sustainable and Resilient Cities at the South African Cities Network), Brendan Smith (founder of the Galway National Park initiative) and Dr Sheryn Pitman (Project Lead Adelaide National Park City).
Ecological Artist. National Park City*Wildernisstadt Berlin co-founder. As her artistic expression, Naho creates an urban design methodology, “Give Space,” in order to give back more space and return habitats to other-than-human beings in a beyond-anthropocentric way.
Liteboho is a sustainability practitioner with 20 years’ experience working across public and private sector organisations on sustainable urban development and sustainability transitions. In her current role as Programme Manager: Sustainable and Resilient Cities at the South African Cities Network, she focuses on the institutional and governance shifts that are required to accelerate sustainability transitions in cities.
Brendan Smith is founder of the Galway National Park initiative. He has been a community and environmental activist for over four decades, involved in many campaigns to protect and enhance biodiversity in urban Galway and to promote sustainability.
Dan is founder of the National Park City movement. Dan started the campaign to make London a National Park City and now supports other people who have similar ambitions for their own cities. He's a Guerrilla Geographer, National Geographic Explorer and a former geography teacher.
Sheryn is leading the Adelaide National Park City projectwhich saw Adelaide reach the status in December 2021. Sheryn has worked in thefield of bringing people and nature together for more than 20 years, havingpreviously led the state’s Green Infrastructure and Sustainable Landscapesprograms hosted by the Botanic Gardens of SA, the Inspiring South Australiaprogram at the SA Museum, and habitat restoration projects with GreeningAustralia.
Visions for greener cities
Panelists introduced their ideas, answered audience questions, and addressed three key topic questions:
Why the idea of National Park Cities?
What would you like to see copied by other cities and communities around the world?
How does everyone think the National Park City vision might bring people together to overcome some of the challenges cities face?
The panel reflected that regardless of cultural differences, many of those campaigning for national park cities across the world are sharing the same challenges, anxieties and solutions, including climate change, COVID, and spaces for children to be able to play.
Highlights of great initiatives we can learn from different cities included the following.
Berlin: people making the best out of empty space and starting green spaces - a creative, playful and bold attitude to taking action
South Africa: seeing more green open spaces in marginalised communities - creating opportunities to find spaces to meet your neighbours, for children to meet each other
Cheonggyecheon: the urban recreation space in downtown Seoul where the Cheonggyecheon Stream was revived after decades of being covered by transport infrastructure. This is an example of 'daylighting', a process of uncovering and restoring rivers that have been buried by urbanisation.
Adelaide: festivals and live arts in open green spaces outdoors
Galway: not just making our city greener, but also bluer, by looking after our waterways, along with looking at the world through the eyes of a child, including by consulting with young people
London: National Park City Rangers, which are rangers in the urban context.
Hear more insights in the video.