THE WILD CITIES™ PROJECT
Modeling a New Urban Relationship with Wild Nature
The WILD Cities™ Project is generating a new concept of urbanism where nature is highly valued, afforded space, and a conscious part of human life. In preparation for the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WILD10, October 2013 in Salamanca, Spain), The WILD Foundation is facilitating a network of urban areas that will develop and utilize a common set of WILD Cities™ criteria and best practice guidelines related to nature protection as urban areas expand across the globe.
The WILD Cities™ strategy is to prioritize the existence of wild nature for its role in providing irreplaceable life supporting services to urban dwellers – fresh air, clean water, biodiversity, productivity of local farms and fisheries, resilience to climate change effects, temperature control, and more – and quality of life derived from parks and recreational open space, educational opportunities, cultural and historic preservation, and city revenue and cost savings. WILD Cities™ integrates Nature Needs Half™, a science-based, practical and aspirational vision of keeping at least 50% of the original ecosystem intact and interconnected in order to ensure the continued production of ecological services. This half can be a mosaic of wild nature in parks, forests, refuges, working lands, and waters managed with nature conservation as a primary value.
Need for WILD Cities – The world’s human population is growing rapidly and with it the proportion living in cities – for the first time in history, more than half reside in urban areas. In many countries, even more live in urban areas – for example, at least 77% of North Americans. Europe is experiencing significant abandonment of farmland, and the world over, people are leaving rural areas for presumed greater economic and social opportunities in cities. Resulting proliferation of development for industry, business, residence, and transportation is subsuming native forests, grasslands and wetlands, and ecosystem functions are being seriously degraded or lost completely. Most wildlife is shut out or forced to adapt to unnatural conditions as habitat vanishes. Environmental values are de-prioritized when governments and business seek immediate benefits from unsustainable development, striving to simply “keep the economy moving.” In our world, wild nature is becoming an abstraction, often experienced only virtually. This puts nature at great risk.
The growing global movement around the concept of “sustainable cities” – generally focused on energy use, architectural design, and urban food production – is commendable, but something more holistic is needed. WILD advocates for a broader focus on urban how wild nature makes possible the lives and lifestyles of urban dwellers, so they act, socially and financially to protect at least half.
The watershed can demarcate the boundaries used to consider whether or not “half” is achieved, with “urban wildness” defined as: (1) remnant wilderness (areas that have remained undeveloped); (2) remnants of agrarian, cultural and historic landscapes; (3) “horticulturally-shaped” urban green spaces (e.g. parks, gardens); (4) defunct urban infrastructure upon which wild nature has returned on its own (e.g. abandoned lots) or with human help (e.g. brown to green fields); and (5) protected areas, farms, ranches, forests, and freshwater and marine areas adjacent to cities where nature is predominant.
Goal & Objectives – WILD Cities™ will create a global network of cities, involving diverse professions and intercultural and intergenerational perspectives, which are committed to the principles of Nature Needs Half™. This working body, facilitated by WILD, will formulate common criteria defining a WILD Cities™ and international guidelines for city planning. It will be capable of generating and sharing replicable models and methodologies, policies, and investments that ensure a place for wild nature while meeting the needs of urban dwellers. It will demonstrate citizen involvement and buy-in to render WILD City™ measures plausible in policymaking and budget allocations.
WILD Cities™ aims to achieve: (1) continued and expanded ecosystem services to urban areas; (2) quantity and quality wildlife habitat and biodiversity within cities and the watershed; (3) enticing opportunities for recreation, and health and economic benefits from open and green spaces in the city confines and beyond; (4) educational opportunities; and (5) revenue generation (jobs, property values, tourism income) and public cost savings (avoiding environmental remediation and storm recovery) for cities.