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Biophilic DC

March 8, 2015
Council of the District of Columbia, (c) MMD

Council of the District of Columbia, (c) MMD

Some exciting news from Washington, DC! A group of colleagues and I have started an initiative to have DC join the Biophilic Cities Network, a coalition started by Tim Beatley and his colleagues (Tim, as I’ve mentioned before, wrote the excellent introduction to the biophilic cities concept, aptly named Biophilic Cities. He more recently wrote about coasts and waterways in cities in Blue Urbanism).

Our first order of business was to ask the Council of the District of Columbia to pass a Sense of the Council Resolution, declaring that:

the District of Columbia supports the principles of the Biophilic Cities Network and commits to promoting, learning about, and sharing biophilic programs and projects with other participating municipalities, to supporting urban biodiversity, and to creating opportunities for all District residents to connect with nature. 

The resolution goes on to discuss the important link between human health and well-being and regular access to nature, the important role cities can play in biodiversity conservation, and that all residents across the city deserve direct experiences with nature. It defines a biophilic city as:

a city of abundant nature, where residents, young and old, have rich daily contact with the natural environment no matter where they reside; where larger natural areas and deeper natural experiences are an easy walk, bike, or transit ride away; and where the urban environment allows for and fosters connections with diverse flora and fauna. In biophilic cities, residents recognize, respect, are curious about, and actively care for the nature around them, and they spend extensive time outside learning about, enjoying, and participating in the natural world.

In biophilic cities, leaders and elected officials give nature and natural capital a central place in their decision making, and evaluate their planning and development decisions by the extent to which nature is restored and protected, and connections with the natural environment enhanced. Leaders and residents of biophilic cities recognize that proximity to nature makes for more desirable communities and provides numerous benefits to all.

A biophilic city recognizes the important role cities play in protecting and increasing biodiversity in a world where biodiversity is greatly threatened.

Thanks especially to the excellent work of Chris Weiss at the DC Environmental Network and Councilmember Mary Cheh’s office, all eleven of the current sitting councilmembers co-introduced the resolution, which, although non-binding, will give us a strong foundation to build on over time. The resolution will be voted on in early April.

In related news, a few weeks back the Biophilic Cities Project asked me and Stella Tarnay to give a webinar on DC and our efforts (scroll down a bit for our contribution). I also highly recommend the entire webinar series — they cover lots of interesting and relevant topics with great speakers.

Stella is my co-organizer in our initial working group as we’re exploring what to do next, and she works with Dumbarton Oaks Park and the Sustainable Landscape Design Program at George Washington University. Other members of our group include representatives from DCEN, City Wildlife, and the Humane Society of the United States. We’re excited to move forward and make DC more nature-rich for all of our residents, human and non-human alike!

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