Inspiring and Creative Connections with Urban Nature

Have you heard about these?

Screengrab of City of Melbourne website

In 2015, a delightful news report was shared about people emailing trees.  Did you read about this? Melbourne's Urban Forest Visual Mapping project offers online open data and mapping of the city's urban forest that includes 77,000 street and park trees.  Through these maps, local residents are able to access specific information about the tree outside their house, down their street or in their favourite green space.  The data not only includes the species (with major species being Eucalyptus, Elms, Gums, Oaks and Plane Trees) but also includes the life expectancy so that the city can track which trees will need to be replaced in the near (and far) future.  Each tree is assigned an i.d. number and the city's online initiative makes it easy to report issues whether it be tree vandalism, decay, broken branches or similar conditions by a simple button in each tree identification pop-up that states "Email this Tree".  What happened was unexpected.

They city started receiving numerous emails from people writing letters of appreciation and conversation directed specifically for the trees.  People asked the trees' opinions on local teams and even the Greek debt crisis, shared their fond memories of significant trees in their childhood or even looked for commiseration about studying for exams.  Some lamented the fact that the trees were reduced to an i.d. number or sought wisdom from these older and supposedly wiser entities.  Emails started coming from other countries and even overseas.  By the time the news reports were being published, these love letters had amounted to over 3000 email.

I wonder how many they have received now?  (Read full article here.)

Photo from Broken City Lab website

Right here in Canada, a Calgary art installation by Broken City Lab in 2014 offered the opportunity for visitors to the "Varying Proximities" exhibit to call the Bow River through a toll-free hotline (accessible by a manual phone at the gallery or any time through a cell phone).  This toll-free hotline was installed as one part of a larger gallery exhibit that also allowed visitors to taste and savor the river, see the river as presented visually online through a google search and think about the river in terms of various adjectives and adverbs (is the river kind, selective, fierce, forgotten, untimely, gracious, etc.).

From Broken City Lab's online blog:
"Whether nearby or across the world, anyone can attempt to connect to the Bow, and begin to explore its wisdom, or its secrets, or its songs, creating a unique opportunity to explore proximity and access as fundamental components of our relationship to the Bow River."
This toll-free hotline is still active and available as of today (2017).  (Get all details here.)

Image from Wild Homes website

And I just found about this new project in the United Kingdom that is led by Greater London National Park City Initiative: Wild Homes which is a "unique housing association that provides affordable homes for wild Londoners".  Brilliant!  This superbly clever website provides wild home listings on an interactive map, allows Londoners to submit their own available listings and offers informational blog posts from the realty agents on what their wild clients are looking for in a home and/or neighbourhood.  I love the scrolling screen that provides updates on the latest listings such as: "A lovely robust home for a growing parakeet family with this huge polar tree.  Great view of the Thames!"

The website lets readers connect with "foodie birds" that are looking for the best up and coming neighbourhoods or "entry-level" renters such as damselflies looking to share or sublet in a specific neighbourhood. It's an inspiring take that hopefully will help urban dwellers see their wildlife neighbours in a different light.

After all, we're all just trying to find a place to hang our hats and call home!

Bravo Greater London National Park City Initiative!

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