Within the Gradient: Introducing the Science of Green Cities

Our region exists across a dramatic gradient: from the peaks of the Cascades and Olympics to the Sound; from the wildlands of the National Parks and Forests to the urban cores of our cities.  This sphere encompasses all of our cities; our jobs and homes.  It also provides the spaces in which we interact with the natural world.  But a lot of questions about this interaction exist:

  • What value is nature to me, or to my community?
  • Is my environment in danger?
  • What impact do I have on nature in my city?
  • How can we improve the natural resources in our communities?

Since late 2009, the Green City Partnerships have been participating in a collaboration with a US Forest Service Research effort called the Green Cities Research Alliance.  This work is similar to exciting research that is being completed across the country like Chicago, NYC, and Baltimore looking at the interaction of people with ‘everyday nature’, in the places where they live, work, and play across the gradient.

It is important to understand the value of ‘green’ to all our landscapes, not only our forests and farms, but also the green in our cities.  Within our gradient we have a variety of types of landscapes, but also cities too!  We live in small towns and exurban communities.  And work in industrial centers and mixed use spaces.  We shop at malls, on mainstreets, and mom and pop’s.  Each of our communities can and does benefit from nature in their own unique way.

The Green Cities Research Alliance is conducting efforts to better understand this relationship of our cities with the natural world.  Research includes investigation of:

  • The people stewarding our parks and open spaces
  • The quality of natural habitats
  • Economic and other values of nature
  • Public health, and the benefits of outdoor restoration and recreation

Amazing work like this in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere is springing up like crazy: check out this, and this, and this, and this here.   Green Cities Research Projects hope to uncover information about our interaction with everyday nature like these projects have, that can help our region thrive through health and stability, as well as provide data that is useful in cities across the country.  We will make an effort to keep you informed.  Please check back regularly for posts on the Science of Green Cities to see what we are discovering!

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