What is Urban Ecology?
Updated: Mar 16, 2019
Urban ecology is about the interactions between people, communities and the urban environment as a connected system.
Urban ecology is about more than just about nature in the city—it's about cities within ecosystems and cities as ecosystems. We tend to think of cities as separate from nature, but cities are embedded within natural systems that we depend on for our survival.
Like all habitats, the health of the environment and the communities that live in and move through that environment are inextricably linked. By looking at cities through an ecosystem lens, we can begin to see issues in a more holistic and connected way and begin to search for solutions to problems that are rooted in systems rather than one-off isolated responses.
This kind of 'whole systems thinking' is an essential skill for tackling the complex multi-scaled and systemic challenges facing cities and the global community today. However, it's a way of thinking that isn't usually taught in school and doesn't come easily to everyone. One of the aims of Learning from the Land, In the City is to help people build their holistic thinking skills by exploring systems in cities and in nature in a hands on way, one system and one season at a time.
Over centuries and millennia, across cultures and continents, humans have developed ways of living with, and ways of knowing about natural systems. Some cultures have learned to live within the limits of the land, developing forms of habitation and cultural practices that honour and work in cooperation with natural systems. Other cultures, notably Western and modern cultures, have developed ways of living that are decidedly less sustainable, exploiting natural resources and promoting practice that harm the land and people.
Urban ecology is about understanding the impacts that humans have on the wider ecosystems of which cities are a part. By examining cities as part of connected social, cultural and ecological processes, advocates, activists and designers can develop more holistic solutions to problems.