Caring Cities: The Green Revolution
In an increasingly urbanized world, the concept of caring cities has taken center stage. Caring cities, in essence, are urban communities that prioritize the well-being and quality of life for their residents while simultaneously demonstrating a profound commitment to environmental sustainability and responsibility. These cities embrace practices that enhance the natural environment, reduce their ecological footprint, and foster a sense of collective care for the planet.
The concept of caring cities is closely intertwined with the growing importance of nature-based solutions, which have become essential for the construction of resilient cities capable of tackling the challenges of climate change and enhancing the quality of life for their inhabitants.
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Eugenia Vidal, the Head of the Open Space Planning Office at the Green Infrastructure Service of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona [AMB], to delve into the importance of these solutions. Vidal is a driving force behind the Llobregat&Co project, a dynamic hub for cultivating knowledge about nature-based solutions and urban forests with a special focus on caring for the environment.
Embracing Nature-Based Solutions
With 80% of the European Union’s population residing in urban areas, our cities have become the beating hearts of society. This underscores the importance of fostering urban environments that are deeply intertwined with their natural surroundings, embodying the essence of caring cities. Cities can no longer be considered isolated entities; they are intricately linked to their natural and territorial surroundings showing that caring cities must extend their care to the environment. As Vidal affirms: “This nature-based approach helps connect cities to the landscape, enhancing green infrastructure, biodiversity, and ecological connectivity. The impact goes beyond resilience; it sparks a transformative shift in the urban experience”.
Urban forests, despite not being highly productive from an economic standpoint, hold great ecological and social significance within caring cities. These environments offer people the opportunity to connect with nature and relish the natural scenery, providing vital ecosystem services that enhance community health and well-being. Prioritizing the planning and upkeep of green spaces like urban forests in this context is imperative for fostering the sustainable future of our cities.
Llobregat&Co: Cultivating Knowledge and Empowering Communities
The Llobregat&Co project is a bustling knowledge incubator that centers on the Llobregat River Basin—the largest inland basin in Catalonia, Spain’s most Northeastern region. It serves as a nature-based solution to foster ecological and social connections within the metropolitan area of Barcelona, Catalonia’s vibrant capital city. The project brings the ethos of caring cities to life through an array of activities, including immersive workshops, guided explorations, communal mapping, and enlightening articles. Its mission is to inspire stakeholders and the public to discover the wonders of urban forests and nature-based solutions.
The journey toward nature-based solutions hinges on active community participation. When citizens step in, knowledge flourishes, insights bloom, specific needs are uncovered, and tailored solutions take root. These natural solutions are a living, breathing entity that demands continuous management, making citizen involvement pivotal for their survival. Successful citizen participation requires clear objectives, the recognition of key stakeholders, flexible methodologies, and strong communication. The Llobregat&Co project serves as an illustration, having embraced inventive approaches like workshops with interactive games and collective mapping to cultivate a diverse chorus of voices. Vidal specifies that “those groups not incorporated directly into the workshops have been reached in other programs and workshops, such as educational programs which included an information pack about the Llobregat River area translated into different languages for teachers to include in classrooms”.
Even though the definitive plan for the Llobregat River is still incubating, knowledge generation and citizen engagement have already cast a fresh light on the space. They set the stage for a more community-centric diagnosis, a space teeming with potential for legitimization, and a communal understanding that can redefine the river’s role in the city, embodying the spirit of caring cities.
Paving the way forward
As we grapple with urbanization and climate challenges, the integration of nature-based solutions and the active engagement of citizens offer a path to creating cities that are not only resilient but also sustainable and vibrant. The work being done by projects like Llobregat&Co, combined with the insights of experts like Eugenia Vidal, point the way toward a greener and more resilient urban future.
I invite you to delve deeper into the world of urban forests and nature-based solutions by joining the series of webinars that I am organising from Metropolis in the framework of the project Clearing House. These sessions will not only shed light on the vast potential of Urban Forests as Nature-Based Solutions but also provide in-depth insights on how to strategize, manage, and maintain urban forests. Plus, each webinar will offer live Chinese-English translation for a more inclusive experience.
Here’s a quick overview of the upcoming webinar series sessions:
- November 15: An introduction to urban forest strategic planning – register here
- November 17: Urban Forest Governance: Achieving effective and collaborative management – register here
- November 22: Empower Your Local Communities: Participatory urban forest design and management – register here
- November 24: Protection and Restoration: How to maintain and improve your urban forest – register here
Get ready for an exciting lineup of expert speakers, including Eugenia Vidal, throughout our webinar series. To hear Vidal speak more about the caring cities and the Llobregat River Basin join us for the third webinar on November 22nd at 09:00 AM CET. To echo Eugenia Vidal call for attendees at the end of our interview “the Llobregat&Co project stories are a must-hear for planners, natural space managers, technicians from various administrations, ecosystem service perception researchers, participation enthusiasts, landscape architects, professionals eager for new perception tools, and anyone intrigued by the potential of metropolitan open spaces”. All are welcome.
Don’t miss this opportunity to expand your knowledge and contribute to the green, sustainable future of your cities.
Register for these webinars and be part of the positive change that’s shaping our urban landscapes.
Júlia Palmarola, an interview of Eugenia Vidal.