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Zoopolis…A Step Beyond New Urbanism

By Mike in July 2008 with 0 Comments


Some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around the canyon in my backyard. Climbing down there with neighborhood friends and constructing, mostly in the imagination, our own private worlds.Palm Tree City, and Cat-Tail Alley. I remember spotting rabbits, coyotes, and other creepy-crawlies. I remember seeing eggs, and becoming inquisitive about life cycles. I often wonder if children living in the city and even in todays suburban sprawls are missing out?

I recently read a fascinating article in the Union Tribune titled ‘For the Children that addresses this issue and explores ideas of a Zoolpolis. Experts in Richard Louvs ‘Last Child in the Woods make a case for increased urban access to nature…resulting in the inspiration for this article. Numerous local San Diegans and people nationwide, have for centuries, been working on plans for such a way of living. San Diego does not have to be far from accomplishing such a goal with our already vast array of natural landscape and wildlife.

Recently sustainable cities and new urbanism movements have been addressing the needs of children. As gas prices increase, new urbanism (the creation of living environments that are pedestrian friendly and tight knit, thus creating a walk-to-everything-you-need community) grows in popularity, and young families move to more urban environments the demographic of urban areas continues to diversify. New Urbanism movements address obstacles such as traffic issues by laying speed bumps and developing pedestrian friendly shopping areas…resulting in a safer environment for children. But still, where can the child roam? This isnt only a matter of psychological well being for children, but for adults as well. It is also an issue of local habitats and wildlife that have so quickly been depleted.

Wildlife biologist Ben Breedlove states that, Future urban design should not only meet the human needs of road capacity and smooth traffic flow, but also meet the needs of nature, with provisions for wild animal mobility and life cycles.

A Zoopolis is a living utopia in which our local species and habitats are integrated into our urban settings. It involves education for children in outside natural areas, teaching them not only about world issues such as global warming and the rainforests, but also about their own local habitat and species. Pat Flanagan, the director of Informal Education at the San Diego Natural History Museum (NHM) has suggested that the NHM replicate the forgotten pollinators campaign that was done through Tucsons Sonora Desert Museum. As more and more non-native plants are increasing in San Diego, it is depleting nectar plants and is in turn disrupting the life of hummingbirds and other local species. She has also suggested San Diego Zoo and Museum sell packets of indigenous seeds of pollinating plants. Also suggested, instead of Palms plant native willows that attract and house local endangered species of birds. There are many small things we can implement to protect our local environment and enrich the lives of children growing up in urban settings.

Ultimately a Zoopolis sets out to have cities and suburban areas linked by large natural habitat sanctuaries with trails and educational centers, rather than focusing on parcels and small parks. As the article questions.Is this idealistic? Well, probably, but its not out of the question. Over a century ago some of the worlds top cities were faced with choices between urban health and pathology. The healthy cities movement of that time resulted in the first wave of great urban parks including Central Park. Our generation has a similar opportunity to make history.

Check out this link on a local program that already focuses on this issue

The article ended with this quote.and I couldnt have ended better myself, Joni Mitchell had it right: They paved paradise / And put up a parking lot. But perhaps, in the near future, we could add a line of hopeful epilogue to that song: Then they tore down the parking lot / And raised up a paradise

Just some food for thought..