How can city dwellers connect with nature?

For many, our connection with nature is believed to be a basic human right. Do you have a true connection with nature? When you live in a city ‘nature’ can often feel like something very far away; something that is separate to us and our city lives. But, there are many ways we can connect with nature in the city.

For me it is important to have my own little bit of nature of home. You don’t need a back garden (and let’s face it not many of us Londoners do!) to bring your environment alive and create a peaceful nature filled haven at home. Rubber trees, peace lilies and snake plants and my personal favourites cacti and succulents are easy to grow indoors and bring green to the scene. Window boxes, hanging baskets (check this gorgeous 3 tiered basket from ethical superstore that will suit any home) and bird feeders can add an explosion of colour and scent in the summertime, and bring butterflies, birds and bees to your outside space.

Learn your urban nature

Many of us can’t tell our oaks from our pines or our ravens from our crows but there is an astonishing variety of trees, plants, birds and other animals in our cities, many of them adapting to life with humans in fascinating ways. Has anyone noticed how bold the squirrels are getting?? I kid you not, one tried to climb up my leg a few weeks ago as I walked through my local park eating some nuts!

 I’ve found that learning to recognise my local flora and fauna and taking a few moments each day to look around and see what I can see has really helped me to feel connected to the natural world around me. It really is astonishing how much wildlife is around us in the city!

For me though, there is nothing more satisfying than foraging for food. I believe that starting to recognise the edible plants around us and starting to incorporate their roots, leaves and berries into our cooking is the ultimate way to connect with nature. You will be amazed at the fun you can have, and the money you can save, by foraging for food in your urban environment. Edible food stuffs are all around us, just be sure not to eat anything before some proper research! There are also a lot of inedible plants out there!

Achieving a greener future

As of 2008 more people live in cities than the countryside. This fact marks a huge moment in human history, and it means one of two things: Either the human connection to nature will continue to fade, or it means the beginning of a new kind of city.

I prefer to believe the latter will triumph. But how can we achieve this? One way is through ‘biophilic design’ or nature-inspired design. This is a way of designing our cities to incorporate nature where we live, work, learn, and play. Turning nature into a part of our everyday lives, not only as something we drive an hour to visit. Biophilic design doesn’t apply just to parks, but also in the way we design our neighbourhoods, our gardens and balconies, and our buildings. In doing so we would be able to create cities that are engines of biodiversity. It all starts with the planting of native plants in large numbers to revive the food chain and bring back butterfly and bird migration routes.

I believe the word ‘sustainability’ is problematic, because to most people it means survival and energy efficiency. It is of course imperative that we do these things but they only go so far in igniting innovation and imagination. Perhaps what we should be talking about is a "nature-rich society"; a different way to look at the future that is not just about survival, but about something much better.