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The Nature of Cities

In May, I participated in the Mississippi Water Security Institute at the University of Mississippi.  The program is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and participants were from Jackson State UniversityMississippi State University, Mississippi Valley State University, University of Southern Mississippi, and University of Mississippi.  This year we studied urban water systems.  Speakers came from all over the world and we also traveled the state to see different bodies of water and careers related to water.

The keynote speaker was David Maddox of The Nature of Cities.  He believes that cities are ecosystems of people, nature, and infrastructure. When it comes to biodiversity and environmentalism within cities, we shouldn’t just talk about the nature in cities (bioswales, parks, street trees, etc.), but also the nature of the cities themselves. The Nature of Cities is an international platform to share diverse ideas about these ecosystems and how to make cities that are resilient, sustainable, livable, and just. Currently, they have almost 650 contributors representing 27 countries and 6 continents and their viewers represent over 150 countries.

The ecosystems of people, nature, and infrastructure I hope to have in the future are resilient, sustainable, and livable.  Resilience is becoming more important with the increase of natural disasters.  Sustainability is important to me and should be important to city planners.  Each of our decisions impacts the entire ecosystem of the city and the world as a whole.  People will continue living in cities that aren’t resilient and sustainable if our designs are not livable.  We can design cities with only one or two of these descriptors, but that’s not a real solution.

I encourage you to read a few essays on the Nature of Cities — not just from your area, but from across the world (Africa, Asia, Middle East, and South America to start).  It’s important to see where others are succeeding and failing so we can learn from their experiences.  But more importantly, notice how across the world, a lot of what makes a great city is the same.