Understanding the Natural & Built Environments


In one page explain what are the most  two significant environmental factors influencing and shaping our cities and why do you consider them of more importance than the other? In your 2nd page, discuss, in your views, how to integrate nature in cities on the continuum below? What is your preference and why?


22 thoughts on “Understanding the Natural & Built Environments

  1. There are a lot of factors to take into account when viewing where to build cities. I feel that for much of American history, these factors have been ignored due to the thinking that progress would mitigate any issues that would arise. As someone who grew up in the Washington D.C area, I can tell you that these issues are alive and well, even in one of the most important cities in the world. Due to my experience with natural environmental factors, I believe the most important factors fall in the hydrology and soil factor. Having grown up in an area that was built on a swamp, I can say that these factors are the most important. In the hydrology area, we see things like watersheds and floodways. When building D.C, these ideas were not taken into account. When we don’t take these things into account, there are problems with drainage and how to deal with water as it comes into the city. While building areas along the river seems nice, when we are faced with flooding, the water has no where to go due to the fact that these floodways have been null and void in order to build. Another large issue is that of soil. Soil erosion is a huge problem in the D.C area. While we do have vast green areas, most areas are negatively affected by soil erosion. This can be seen on the banks of the Potomac river, where whole chunks of the coast line are falling in. In this area we see hydrology and soil play together. We see things like landslides and sinkholes. Sinkholes are such a large problem in the D.C area that almost every time it rains you can expect part of the road to collapse. Taking into account these factors when planning and building would increase longevity and save the taxpayers money.
    On the spectrum of how to integrate nature into our cities, I would side mostly on the “E” end of the spectrum. While having vast open spaces is nice, I think it is more beneficial to all people to have ready access to green spaces. As we have discussed in earlier weeks, having these green spaces is important to development. People want to be able to go to a park or see a tree. These smaller spaces allow everyone to have equal access to these spaces and not just make it a luxury, only able to be afforded by those who have access to a car or any type of transportation to get to these spaces. While I enjoy the fact that Yosemite is within a few hour drive of my home in Sacramento, I do not think it would be just if this was the only green space that I had available to me. While I enjoy knowing that I have the option to travel there to hike, I do not have the means to be able to enjoy this space. I can however enjoy the neighborhood park at the end of my street. Everyone who lives in my neighborhood has equal access to the green space and I think this is only fair. Not only is there equal access, but having the green spaces like this also helps with air quality. While I do not think we should divide up all green spaces into these city blocks, I do believe that having these spaces makes it so that people are receiving fresh air. While dividing up all green land like this is not a good idea, doing so in a city would work very efficiently.

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  2. FEB 14
    When building a city there are factors that we must consider but the two most important are the Geology and hydrology. Geology plays an important part in the construction of our cities. The type of earth surface and how that surface changes over time can give critical analysis of the future of that city. Lets put the example of San Francisco the Majority of the San Francisco region is built on former landfill which is susceptible to soil liquefaction during earthquakes.
    Soil liquefaction has the potential of destroying cities and have millions of dollars in infrastructure damage. There are new buildings that been built in that region but companies have spend a lot of money to drill into bedrock which will secure those new development projects. Hydrology is another important factor that we must consider when building a city the Effects of urban development on flood areas can cause many damages and not only monetary infrastructure loss but also human life loss. An example that comes to mind is the recent disaster in Houston. This catastrophe happen in 2017 the massive rising flood waters after Hurricane Harvey left a community with Five deaths, overburdened emergency services, and thousands of residents fleeing the city. Why Houston made the decision to build on an area that is susceptible to floods. If Hydrology was one of the main factors this city planners have taken into consideration this disaster would not happened. Geology and hydrology are very important factors that we must consider when building cities.
    The integration of nature into cities is an important factor for any city developer. Communities need nature in their midsts to be able to survive but also to have a place where they can enjoy and relax. Living in urban communities where there are no green spaces can be quite stressful and damaging on humans Massive highways, noise, pollution, cars and traffic can reduce the air quality and create health issues on humans but when you add green spaces these factors are reduced due to the advantages nature gives us not only as a visual and relaxation space but in the improvement of air, water and soil among cities. That is why for me factor C would be my preferred option is a mixture of city but also it incorporates green spaces that can be left undisturbed. The green areas are smaller and more disturbed than factor A but it provides an advantage to the city dwellers and leaves a larger green space for nature to further develop. Life needs green spaces we are not meant to live-in cement only sections. Factor E is also an extreme that is not perfect since the areas of green space are small and are very disturbed by the city dwellers. This Area probably would have a high density in beauty but is not perfect because it can have negative effects on nature. The nature in this section would be small and cannot fully developed and grow to provide benefits to the community.

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  3. It is difficult to separate which two environmental factors are most important for shaping our cities, because they all play such an important role. However, using technology humans have been able to develop in areas that are not necessarily the most suitable. Soil, geology, and vegetation have posed smaller obstacles for city developers. On the other hand, topography and hydrology have been a more difficult obstacles to overcome. Therefore, I would say topography and hydrology are the two most important factors that influence where and how cities are built.
    Humans have gotten pretty good at building on all types of terrain, yet there are simply some areas that are just too steep to realistically build on and develop. Mountainous regions with steep slopes are expensive and difficult to build on. Furthermore, they can pose dangers such as rock, mud, and landslides. As a result, steep terrain plays a big part of how our cities have developed, with steep terrain being either sparsely or completely unoccupied.
    Topography mainly influnces what areas can’t be developed, but hydrology influences both where can and can’t be developed. Water is essential for any large scale development and cities must be located by large scale water sources to exist. Therefore, most cities are located next rivers or regions with sufficient ground water for wells. Dams and aqueducts have allowed for cities to be constructed further away from water sources in areas that otherwise would not support large development, but there are limitations on how far water sources can be transferred. Water also can limit where development takes place. For example, in flood plains along rivers and coastal areas subject to storm surges. Of course seawalls and levees have been used to build in theses areas water affects, but water usually defeats human efforts to contain it sooner or later. Lastly, water also works to fill transportation and aesthetic needs for cities. While neither of these roles is essential for a city, they definitely contribute to the location of cities, with most major cities around the globe being located next to the ocean, lakes or rivers.
    Cities locations next to water for aesthetic reasons highlights the importance of incorporating nature into development. Nature in the form of parks or reserves can perform important functions for the population of cities. They improve air quality, serve as public spaces, and can be visually stimulating. These features provided by nature can improve the health and quality of life for people living in urban areas. However, while nture can have positive benefits for people, people can often have negative impacts on nature. Therefore, it is important to distribute nature in such a way to balance preserving the ecosystem while still allowing the benefits of nature to the population. Dense urban forest separated off on their own are best for the ecosystem and allow forest to grow in a more natural state. However, separation can limit public access with the benefits of nature being unequally distributed. On the other hand, highly fragmented green spaces spread across urban areas might be more beneficial to the public, but are less beneficial to preserving the natural ecosystem. Therefore, in my opinion, the best compromise is to pursue mixed green areas that can work to preserve the natural ecosystem while still benefiting the human population of urban areas. In a perfect scenario there would be room to incorporate both philosophies into urban development. But, if geographic constraints do not allow for both, striking a balance in the middle with mixed green spaces allows for the best of both worlds.

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  4. I believe that the two significant environmental actors that influence and shape our cities are hydrology and soil. Having risen in a country that has issues with natural disaster, such as earthquake and flood, I can say that these two factors are the most important. Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the water cycle, water resources, and environmental watershed sustainability. Water is necessary for human’s life as we can see that aqueduct is stretched around in a country. Since channel is systematized, it will cause problems in a process of planning building a new facility. Planner cannot carry out without thinking about how to maintain or change the original water rout, because that will affect the cycle of the nature. Animals’ habitat will be suffered, whereas aquatic animals should be living in steam area, and land animals should be living in flood fringe area. Another important factor is soil. It is a mixture of minerals, organic matter, gases, liquids, and countless organisms that together support life on Earth. Soil erosion is a huge problem in the area where natural disasters, like earthquake, occur. The earthquake causes subsidence, which also lead to the result in soil liquefaction. It will lead to the corruption of the buildings that will expand the damage. San Francisco earthquake that happened on April 18,1906, is one of the example of soil liquefaction lead by the earthquake. The magnitude was approximately around 7.8, which recorded as one of the big natural disasters in the American history. What we know is improving soil quality will equal to improving environmental quality, which lead to the improvement of agricultural sustainability.
    On the spectrum of how to integrate nature into our cities, I would side mostly on the “D,” which is in between mixed and fragmented. I prefer not to completely distinguish the cities and green areas, because that means people living in the cities will have a less chance to breathe a fresh air. Green, such as plant, is necessary to maintain a life cycle because plant reduce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. So if there is not green that is close to the cities, people will suffer from air pollution with no possible solution. Not only for the concern of air quality, but also for the leisure. Having green areas near each city is preferred to get an equal access to both, the green area and the cities, for people. Many people need time to be free from the daily life and spend their time at the park to refresh their selves. In addition, letting children to play in the green area will allow them to think more in open minded and think in more creativity, since they have to think of what to play with what they have in the circumstance.

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  5. I think that the two most significant environmental factors that influence our cities are hydrology and soil. Hydrology has been a significant determining factor of where large civilizations have been built throughout history. Most major U.S. cities are built on a coastline, and I would assume this is similar worldwide. Water is life, it generates life within its body and supplies human life with food. Whether or not a community is built on the ocean, it will still need to be built somewhere close to river or stream, something that leads into the ocean. Also, the watershed route and tributaries need to be determined before planning to build any part of a city because you need to avoid areas that will be flooded, or areas don’t have easily accessible water. I think that hydrology is a little bit more important than soil, because people use water for drinking, cleaning, cooking, bathing, and so much more.
    Although I think hydrology is a little it more important than soil, soil also has a huge impact on where cities are built, and also where economies can grow. For example, when the soil in the South was rich with nutrients was when tobacco was being grown and the South had a lot of power. California, one of the largest economies in the world is known for having many different agriculture crops due to our fertile Central Valley. However, the Central Valley is not a convenient place for the U.S. to send water to. Knowing the soil composition is important and plays into where large cities are built, because you can’t grow crops unless the soil has the right amount of nutrients for those crops. This is why there aren’t too many large civilizations that were built in the desert. I think that knowing how the hydrologic cycle and soil fertility is very important when determining where to place cities.
    I think that the best way to integrate nature into cities would be by having a community built like “c” in the diagram, while also having larger land areas such as “a” further away from the city. I choose “c” over completely fragmented because “c” allows for some diversity of wildlife to live within its borders. I think that if you have a completely fragmented community, most of the animals that live deep in a forest or woodland are no longer able to survive in their habitat. Having more exposed edges and less of a dense center will allow for animals to be more exposed to humans where they can get ran over, trapped, and killed. By having a mixed community, you are still allowing for a community to have a park along all edges, but you also allow for more animals to live within the park. In my perfect world, I would have a combination of mixed and dense, because this would cause the least disruption for the animal kingdom by still allowing large green areas, and this would allow community members to have access to small parks and also larger forests if they wished to visit them.

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  6. I think that places where there are trash cans for people to throw away trash is useful in major cities like San Francisco where people tend to be outside most of the day, or in other words large groups of mobile people that can go about their day consuming and creating by recycling or throwing their trash away in easy and convenient places. Another way we can help to keep the city environment clean is to save money by riding public transportation which also reduces the amount of Co2 emissions created by everyday vehicle’s. It is hard to learn bus schedule’s but I believe it would be good for major businesses or organizations to create modes of transportation for their employees etc. by using a network of transport services created and sustained by their own business or the city’s own resources. For example, if urban planners create shuttle busses and special programs like free rides for commuting college students from Bart to campus that saves money, time, and resources. Over time this will create a sustainable and growing number of commuters because its is a smart alternative to using resources collectively rather than individually.
    This will also help create a healthier atmosphere in general because by reducing the number of cars on the road the air quality will be better, also this allows more room for trees and nature instead of manmade structures. This is why I think Example D would be the most favorable because although their may be some congested areas in cities, there will still be enough space to still see nature instead of manmade structures everywhere. There Is always a good combination that man and nature have in common, which is the space we take up, learning to stay connected to nature is always something man has worked at and I believe as we see in the examples of how societies are set up from A, B, C, D, and E there has been a push for man to get closer to nature. Although in our modern-day man tends to work inside rather than outside in nature, when man walks outside it is good to know nature and mankind can coexist at the same time, because for me Incorporating more of nature into my everyday life is a goal because everyday we need sunlight and vitamin C!

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  7. Looking back through history I think one could recognize two of the most significant environmental factors that shape a city are its hydrology and its soil. Looking at ancient Egypt built along the Nile, Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates, and Chinese civilization along the Yellow river as a few examples, we see that these ancient civilizations were able to rise to kingdoms, empires, and dynasties thanks to the availability of an abundance of fresh water and rich sediment from the rivers that provided fertile land for crops. Given the resources of fresh water and fertile soil, a city has the means to provide the basic needs for its citizens with security of food and water, with excess used for commerce, which then aids in development.

    The same can be said for the importance of these factors in todays cities. Remove one of these from a city, whether it be access to clean water or fertile soil, and the devastating effects resonate quickly. From droughts that lead to water scarcity, pollution from agriculture runoff, contamination from fracking, toxic dumping of industrial waste, and landfill seepage all have a huge effect on your access and quality of water. Understanding the watershed around the city is not only important in protecting your access to fresh water, but in the development of your city as well. Building on flood plains where overflowing rivers dump their water can not only be costly, but a set up for disaster. We saw this recently in Houston with hurricane Harvey, which flooded thousands of homes and cars from a lack of zoning codes and the development on flood plains.

    The importance of fertile soil is also a huge part of American history. Looking at the dust bowl, where a drought paired with the increased rate of plowing to provide wheat for soldiers in World War I, had crushing impacts. The drought killed any hopes of growing wheat. But now with no crops or prairie grass to hold the freshly plowed soil down, it would bake in the sun, turn to dirt, and get picked up and carried by prairie winds across the country. This intensified the already crushing economic impacts of the Great Depression and drove many families in search of better living conditions and work.

    Looking at how to integrate cities and nature, I would choose to go with C, a mixture that is not too big or too small. Looking at both ends, having a city build like A in a dense setting would be great for nature, but living conditions in the city would be bleak and poor air quality. Looking at E as a more fragmented setup would be the opposite, great for the city, but with plots of nature too small to provide any real suitable habitat for animals. I think C offers the best solution by allowing short travel times to access wilderness, but enough wilderness for animals not to feel threatened by the edge effect, or a shrinking habitat.

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  8. Rory Lapham
    Professor Gohar
    Global Environmental Crisis
    February 15, 2018
    Weekly Paper 3
    When it comes to creating and developing new urban city, or even some form of architecture, there is much planning and many factors to consider before the building commences. The overall main concern is the geography, for the structure must be suitable and sustainable for maximum efficiency and life time.
    The suitability of a city is the direct location of where the city or building will be and how the structure will fit on the land. Generally, the ideal locations are wide and leveled, with a very supportive foundation. This preferred setting would be most efficient in labor as well as in financing, compared to a steep mountain range where the geometrics of the structures would radical, and very difficult build ont, as well as less cost effective.
    As for sustainability, this discusses the predicted lifespan of the architecture that is influenced by the surrounding land features. An example of an intelligent decision of choosing the location to build city on, would be to select a more elevated ground over a narrow valley. For the valley runs a risk of being flooded during a heavy rain season, causing significant damage to the buildings, and/or precarious possibilities to its inhabitants. An example of poor sustainability, is the prison on Alcatraz Island. Though the idea appears optimal to house criminals in a very isolated area, it is covered in heavy atmospheric moisture and high salinity due to being surrounded by sea water. The effect of this erodes much of the structural material, and creates quintessential living conditions for mosses and bacteria, making it bio hazardous. This is what forced city to permanently close the prison for the maintenance fees were overly expensive to keep operating.
    After selecting a location to build your city, it is important to keep an even ratio of urban areas, and natural public spaces when developing the city plans. As for the designs that professor Gohar provided, I find that layout D seems to be most efficient, with half of the city with medium sized parks and urbanizations, and the other half with small interchanges of parks and suburbanization. This will provide a more affluent class to be a part of the city in suburbs, while people with less income can reside in the more urban area at less cost. Though this is a prime example of classism, all citizens will have access to parks, and with the large scale ones located near the lower income area, they will more likely have better aesthetics with theirs compared to the more convenient ones in the suburbs. And with the middle sized, cities, it could provide more economic gain over smaller areas, which could reek more benefits for the urban locations.
    When it comes to city planning, you must first choose the location with the highest suitably and sustainability for the most efficient and lasting life time. As for planning the layout of city, every intelligent option will provide its benefits, but it also always runs with consequences as well, truth is that there is no perfect city plan by today’s standards, but there are some more superior options over others depending on the circumstances.

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  9. There are a myriad of factors and confounding variables which come to inform the design of our cities, however for the purpose of discussion, it is with prudence that one takes into account how the build environments correspond with the natural. Having visited a variety of cities around the globe, I’ve come to form a unique perspective as to how cities should function and are built. Cities are the places where people meet, where social life manifests itself in a more intense and complex way; where culture is produced and where economic development, combined with advances in technology and science, appears more evident. Some cities are well managed and provide a good quality of life; others present difficulties of various kind. Since cities are of such importance it is pivotal to understand what are the two major environmental factors influencing and shaping our cities. Urban planning itself is concerned with the organization and distribution of activities of the population on a specific territory.

    There are two elements that cannot be excluded while considering the planning of an urban setting: Vegetation and Hydrology. With vegetation is referred to the association of vegetable plants that populate a territory, whose characteristics express the combination of ecological, biotic, and abiotic factors that determine the spatial distribution (Torretta, Vincenzo. Studi e procedure di valutazione impatto ambientale: aspetti normativi, approccio metodologico e prassi operativa. Palermo: D. Flaccovio, 2010.). The Earth’s land can be divided into five major types of vegetation regions: desert, ice sheet, grassland, tundra, and forest. These areas are distinct regions since they are characterized by different types of plants, soil, and weather patterns (Society, National Geographic. “Vegetation region.” National Geographic Society. October 09, 2012. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/vegetation-region/). Since vegetation is designated by the elements of nature it is a source of energy for our economy. Without vegetation there would not be a global production of food and raw material to create our cities. Hydrology on the other hand, shows the importance of water. Water is one of our most valued natural resources. There could be no life on earth without it. We need to understand that to build our cities we need to embrace the complex water system of the earth. With the science of Hydrology, we can embody the occurrence and distribution of the waters on earth and their relationship with the environment while planning our urban settings (Hydrology: The Study of Water and Water Problems A Challenge for Today and Tomorrow, a publication of the Universities Council on Water Resources). Ultimately, both Vegetation and Hydrology are the basic elements of environmental studies and thus of our civilizations. We cannot exclude these two elements while designing our cities.

    The challenging question while planning a city is “How to integrate equally and justly nature with the city”?. From the continuum showed in class, going from point A) Dense, being nature and urban area completely separate, point C) Mixed, where the urban area and nature co-exist in a balanced way, to point E) Fragmented, where nature is cut into smaller and smaller pieces but giving an equal opportunity to people to enjoy the natural environment. Before giving my opinion, I want to analyze the positive and negative effects of the three main options in the continuum of integration of cities with nature. In the first case, the Dense one, we can notice that the natural ecosystem is not interrupted but kept preserved. This option is optimal for the natural environment and the organisms living in it. Animals would have their own habitat, which would not be interrupted by our urban setting. On the second case, the mixed one, the environmental ecosystem is disrupted but the alternation of the urban surrounding. The last case, the Fragmented one, we can see how the natural environment is completely obstructed. In this latter case, it is self-explanatory that it serves our civilization. In my opinion, if urban planning would be constricted to this continuum presented in class, the second option, the mixed case, would be the least deleterious for the environment and the most equally distributed between the population in the urban setting. Even if the natural ecosystem is still being interrupted by the metropolitan area, it has a less impact since its ecosystem has enough space to survive while serving the people.

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  10. I believe hydrology and oil are the two most important environmental factors that we need to consider.
    Hydrology is the branch of science that deals with the properties of earth’s water, especially its movement in relation to the land. The reason why it is important today is our cities have been changing, and construction of infrastructures are taking place with little to no account of the water pathways. To be more specific, we are building houses, hotels etc. in the flood fringe because of the beauty of those areas. However, one direct consequence of it is that animals that tend to find refuge in the flood fringe are no longer able to do so because we have occupied their territory. Therefore, this makes them vulnerable but also show our lack of consideration of certain species and the role they play in our ecosystem that ultimately benefit us.
    Second, is the importance of the soil. The soil plays a major role as it is the source of subsistence for both humans and animals. It provides us with crops, stable base to support plant roots and store water and nutrients for plant growth. Since we are discussing soil, it is difficult not to link it with vegetation as both are interdependent but also critical for human and animal survival. A healthy, high quality soil allows the development of vegetation, and a good vegetation in turn can protect the soil against erosion. For that reason, the constructions of hydroelectric dam are not necessary welcomed by population living around the area because it causes soil erosion.

    To integrate nature into the cities, I would lean more towards D where the upper half is fragmented and the lower half is mixed. Fragmented will take social and ecological aspect into factor. It will allow low income folks to have access to green areas and park where vegetation can flourish and at the same time create a sense of community among the neighborhoods. In addition, it will have parkways that will link one park to another and therefore increasing the area for biking, and walking. It will solve the issue of transportation to a certain extent because folks can either walk or bike from one neighborhood to another through the parkways and reduce the usage of cars.
    The lower half of the city will be mixed. The green areas are larger and can constitute habitat for certain species. Because of the presence of large vegetation, rivers in addition to being habitat for animals, housing around this area will more likely be expensive and only affordable to a group of people. Gentrification will less likely occur because both low and high-income folks have green areas. However, access will not only be limited to those living around. Rather, a transportation system should be implemented to connect both areas.
    Lastly, as much as there is a presence of green areas throughout the city, the most important aspect of this design will be human behavior towards the nature. Legislation must be passed in order to protect the environment, and humans must not go beyond their needs.

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  11. I believe that two environmental factors that are influencing and shaping our cities are the development of parks and public transportation. In my experience growing up in the south bay, I have seen our public transportation system evolve into a more viable way of commuting. It seems that more companies are also encouraging their employees to take the public transit or provide transportation for them in the form of eco-friendly vehicles. This is a step in the right direction, because as more people commute this way, we are reducing our carbon footprint and helping our environment. Although the bay area is still progressing toward a more streamlined transit system in comparison to other major cities, I believe our public transportation systems are becoming more accessible. For example, I have noticed the expansion of bart closer to my area now and in recent news they announced more bart lines are soon to come.
    In addition, the development of parks seems to be occurring more in surrounding neighborhoods where I live. This is great for both our environment and our communities, because it allows people to remember how crucial green spaces can be in cities. This also opens discourse for environmental practices and development within communities. I feel that when we are more integrated with having nature in our communities, it helps us socially and improves the quality of our lives. An example of intersection between social and civic engagement in my community is the Veggielution program at Emma Prusch in East San Jose.
    Veggielution helps to keep the agricultural history of that area alive and in doing so it continues to be a community farm that connects people and helps encourage healthier eating and taking leadership. With the addition of more homes being built, it is a relief to know that a farm I have been on field trips as a kid still exists when orchards and vacant land that was once there no longer does. Currently the layout of my city seems to be more like the “E” model, but my preference would be more like “D”. If more cities left certain parts untouched and preserved, combining models “C” and “E” could be achieved. This would hopefully resemble more areas like Emma Prusch park and could yield more opportunities for communities.

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  12. When planning to develop infrastructure that both satisfies the everyday needs of city dwellers while also catering to environmental standards of the modern age, many factors and points must be evaluated before any action can be taken. Such critical aspects are vital to ensure the longevity of function for the many processes that occur daily in city life while balancing in amenities such as parks and nature reserves integrated into the city plan. First and foremost, the most urgent point to consider before any development planning can be taken is the preexisting topography of the land of which the city is planned to be built upon. Like any sturdy and maintained citadel, the foundation infrastructure is developed on is key to ensuring that problems will not arise in the future. Unfortunately, the topography of a location does not always play in our benefit, as it is extremely common for undeveloped land to have uneven surfaces which require immense amounts of resources in order to become usable. Therefore, before a city can be created, city planners must evaluate if it is even viable to convert land in accordance with necessary parameters of environmental safety and functionality and must plan to do so in a way least impactful to the surrounding environment. The second factor to analyze would be the hydrology of the location planned to be developed on. It is very common for city development to negatively impact local waterways and water based processes by pollution or structural damage. Also, a poorly chosen location to develop near a water system could result in future damages such as flooding or water damage.

    Personally, I believe that point D between mixed and fragmented development is the right choice to go. Considering my own habits and preferences, I like buildings such as restaurants and shopping centers to be close together without large nature areas separating them as it is easier to go from one location to the next. One such example is our very own San Francisco State. Imagine if there was a park between the university and Stonestown which would make commuting from lunchtime to classtime that much longer. When I do want to immerse myself in nature, I rather have a more fulfilled immersion without walking a few steps through a park only to have the end be a shopping center. That does not mean that I wouldn’t like the occasional nature walk to help lighten the tediousness of traveling between locations. Therefore, I deem it wise to have somewhat of a separation between human conveniences and nature while still integrating nature aspects into the development of infrastructure.

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  13. The development of suburban and urban areas are dependent on factors of the natural environment such as topography, hydrology, geology, climate, vegetation & soil. While these environmental factors can influence and even shape cities, I argue that the two most important environmental factors are hydrology and geology. Hydrology is the scientific study of the occurrence, distribution, movement and properties of various waters of the planet and their relationship with the environment (USGS, 2016). Geology is an earth science which studies the solid Earth, the rocks it is comprised of, and the processes by which they transform (Gohar, 2018).
    Influence of Environmental Factor
    By city developers understanding hydrology and geology, they can assess which areas are a high risk and prevent development in in those areas accordingly. For example, when developers apply hydrology knowledge to land-use planning, they can determine if development of potential city locations will be in flood zones, watershed patterns, and the regional water availability. When developers take geology into consideration, they can determine if an area of land poses any danger to human use. For instance, when an area of land is more prone to landslides, earthquakes, flooding, or volcanic eruptions, developers need to consider those threats near city areas because human safety and city infrastructure may be at a greater risk. In addition to cities being shaped by geological threats, understanding groundwater basins is important for cities. In the book Landscape Planning, William Marsh explains how groundwater basins are influenced by regional geology. Marsh argues that geology influences water availability and the health of water,
    The spatial configuration of a groundwater basin is determined largely by regional geology, that is, by the extent and structure of the deposits and rock formations that house the groundwater bodies….This uncertainty is significant not only in planning for water supplies, but also in understanding the spread of contaminants among aquifers (Marsh, 151).
    Understanding regional geology will help humans understand contaminants in aquifers and influence planning for water supplies. Cities will be shaped by water supplies and the transport of the water.
    In comparison to vegetation, climate, topography, and soil, I would argue that cities are greatly shaped by hydrology and geology. I think that hydrology and geology are important environmental factors to consider because humans need water to survive and geology helps us understand potential geological threats to human infrastructure and aquifer systems.
    Integrating Nature into City Environments
    Humans have developed their city environments with dense areas of vegetation. Cities need to reintegrate nature into their environment by dedicating equal distribution of green space for all species. I believe that cities should incorporate green space by utilizing A and E nature characteristics. When considering E characteristics, I think by including smaller city areas and green spaces, communities will have greater access to green space. For example, someone who holds a low-income status may not be able to access the larger green space area if they do not have a form of transportation. By including smaller green areas, they will have a greater opportunity to visit those green spaces since they are located at an accessible distance. I chose A as well because I think that we need to consider the amount of habitat other species will need to survive. Some species depend on larger habitats for their survival rather than smaller areas of land. When developers build cities, they should plan to include denser areas of vegetation for other species.

    Gohar, A. (2018). The Natural & Built Environments Global Environmental Crisis. [pdf]
    Marsh, W. M. (2010). Landscape Planning. Wiley. (Chapter: 3,4,5,7,9)
    U.S. Geological Survey (2016). What is hydrology and what do hydrologists do? Retrieved from https://water.usgs.gov/edu/hydrology.html

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  14. The layout of a city is completely influenced by the local environment in which it exists. Land that a city now occupies was once fully integrated into the Earth’s ecology. However, human advancements have allowed us to separate ourselves from nature to a greater extent than our past ancestors. Thus, advancements in city planning have shifted further and further towards integrating nature within the cityscape in the most optimal layout. If a city can be successfully integrated parallel to ecological processes and structures, then that city is practicing sustainable development.
    Hydrology is a crucial aspect of city integration. Traditionally, early civilizations have sprung up near rivers because they provide the settlement with a reliable source of water. A river’s annual morphology leaves riverbanks with fertile soil for agriculture, and acts as a natural highway for the transportation of goods and services. Wetland ecosystems surrounding waterways provide biodiversity for the local area, increasing the variety and abundance of vegetation and animals surrounding the city.
    Vegetation is important to biodiversity in the region surrounding a city. The abundance of crops and forests within a city is strongly linked to its surrounding hydrological natural systems. Variance in vegetation assures healthy soil function and food security. Cities which optimally distribute green spaces in conjunction with proper water systems planning will gain the greatest benefit from their surrounding ecology.
    A city designed with sustainability in mind should find a way to incorporate all aspects of its surrounding ecology to benefit its residents, while ensuring that the settlement also has a corresponding positive impact returned to the environment. So, according to the presented scale, I believe the middle position to be the most optimal. Going slightly right of center towards ‘D’ seems like it would be more feasible in execution. Either way, green spaces should be incorporated so that they are easily accessible to all the city’s residents, while remaining dense enough to provide sufficient ecosystem services. If the ecology is too fragmented (as it is towards the right of the scale) then not enough ecosystem services will be provided. Additionally, fragmented green spaces tend to be less resilient to human impact. If green spaces remain less fragmented, but still well spread out through the city, then ecosystem services could be more efficiently captured. Larger green spaces aid the resident in sensing an illusion of ‘leaving the city’ for nature. So in addition to ecosystem services, green spaces also provide a necessary social service to a city’s residents.

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    • Tina Adewunmi
      ENV 331

      In my interpretation developing the influence that layout of a city is natural environments. In the past nature decided where we human could place a city based on the natural conditions, now we are more separated from nature because our cities have become more artificial due to Topography, Hydrology, Soil, Vegetation and Geology climate which we used as a dependent factors can shape the cities. Looking at two most essential environmental factors are hydrology and geology, Hydrology is water access know as transportation routes, and the ability to produce or import enough goods to meet the populations requirements with the planet and their relationship with the environment. Geology is the study of solid, earth, and the rocks. It is composed of, and process by which they transform and significant impact on our environment both on local and nature. I impulse water pollution on building sites, including diesel, Gas and other fossil fuels and toxic chemicals when developers are developing urban areas like villages etc. Environmental Factors: Geology considers the earth as an open system of gases, liquids, and solids, circulated from the outer limits of the atmosphere to the earth’s center. As we can vigil the urban growth patterns significant result from economic restructuring.
      Here in San Francisco, developers plan the cities to solve specific problems and serve the interests of those with wealth and power and reflect to intensity of cultural ideals. Why is it important to integrate nature into cities?
      “Everyone should have equal access to nature provides important services for us such as clean air and water etc.” When developers take geology into consideration, is because of an area of land that posed any danger to human begins. Than cities begin shaped by geological threats, the basic important for the cities. In fact to comparison to topography and vegetation, and soil. I think that cities are shaped by hydrology and geology also understanding the spread of contaminants to human infrastructure systems.
      The most significant environmental factor is to understand our work and home environment to expand our concepts of the city as a political and economic phenomenon. In relation to a city’s environment is the beliefs values, and technology that characterize a city in a particular historical era. We human have to develop our city environments with area of vegetation. Cities have to planned and support with the distribution of green space for animals and humans. Looking at cities and the community where I live, there is always a good combination that shows everyone and natures have in common, which is atmosphere we take up, studying to connected to nature is always something, I believe and see how the societies set up from A, B, C, D, and E where as getting closer to nature. Although, A and C, as a green open space within cities concentrated urban forest to the left reflect the continuity of ecosystem and healthier organisms. Whereas, fragmented greens within the built form to the right represent better serving to people. I think by including smaller city area and green space, my communities will be happy having greater access to space for people to go for relaxation.

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  15. Layla Luna
    Professor Gohar
    Environmental Studies 331
    17 February 2018
    Time and time again, we have seen that humans attempting to develop in a certain area, in spite of environmental obstacles, generally turns out to be a bad idea. Take, for example, Millennium Tower in San Francisco; perhaps the most famous geographical/architectural blunder in our area in recent decades; I will discuss this example and others in further detail as I outline my two most integral environmental factors that developers must take into consideration. I believe the two most important environmental factors in consideration regarding urban planning are hydrology and topography; while these two are extremely interrelated, I believe they they should be given the highest priority by developers when planning a project.
    Perhaps it is because we live in the sloping California region, but topography seems like an almost obvious environmental consideration that is necessary above others: if an area is topographically challenging for a development, is it worth the cost to make it a flatter surface? And how long will that newly dug, flatter surface remains a safe and sustainable foundation for buildings? So, in the case of considering topography as a high-level factor, soil naturally comes into consideration, as well.
    Next, we must consider hydrology as a high priority factor when developing over a region. Often, the integral and changing relationship between water movement and soil quality is forgotten or developers do not calculate future changes to soil based on water changes that could occur while they are building. This was precisely the case in Millennium towers in San Francisco. When new construction began for transit center across the street from the towers, the transit developers drained more groundwater from the region, causing the water levels under the towers across the street to drop and eventually leading the building to begin sinking.
    As for my view on the density of vegetation in urban areas, I think this is a matter specifically of location. For example, in a highly metropolized, developed area like downtown San Francisco, a mixed or fragmented infrastructure is best because I do not think that the heart of the city would be a good place to create the intersection of animal habitat and human lifestyle. However, as we get further west into the city, we see large areas of habitat conservation, such as Golden Gate Park and the Presidio of San Francisco, which represent more of a dense vegetation layout. This sort of mixing of different styles of city layouts are ideal, where we can areas of fragmented development and areas of dense development, as well.

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  16. The environment, as we call it, is the result of an harmonic mixture of all the components that conform it. Its dynamic is the orchestrated dynamics of everyone of its parts. However, there are some elements which we could consider fundamental or more important than others for its well-being, or, at least, for men’s well-being in their coexistence with nature. In other words, there are some parts whose changes might have bigger effects on the environment and, eventually, on our lives. These are, from my point of view, geology and vegetation.

    Geology, as it studies the physical and chemical components and interactions taking place in the planet, it addresses and evaluates the adequacy of the different parts of the Earth for our occupation. The air chemicals, as well as those of the land, are analyzed in this discipline. Without geology, we wouldn’t be able to predict any natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, or volcanic eruptions. Tectonic plaques’ movement or changes in the matter of everything on Earth due to climate variations wouldn’t have an explanation without geology. It is crucial for us to be aware of the knowledge provided by this science to develop a better relationship with the environment. As an example, we could talk about the dangers of oil extraction through fracking.

    On the other, one essential component of our planet is our flora or vegetation. By ensuring a bold and healthy vegetation, we are at the same time influencing the quality of the water, the soil and the air. And not only those, but our biodiversity. The food chain would be completely broken without vegetation, and the materials sustaining our houses and hoarding the international market for goods and services would have to be substituted. Medicine and food would be severely weakened as a result of vegetation losses. Among many other disadvantages.

    Finally, regarding the integration of nature in the cities, we could argue the following. Firstly, that the very fact of desiring the integration of both two is again a whim of men over nature. This is because we have discovered the negative effects of the absence of nature in our daily life, and now we do want to create more “healthy” cities. Using the drawing facilitated in the prompt for the exercise, D or E would be completely disturbing for nature. Changing the whole health of nature itself to serve as is destroying its quality. A or B is being too radical, provoking huge contrasts and eventual over-pollution of certain areas, while maintaining natural zones intact (respectful attitude). I would opt for option C in the design and construction of sustainable cities. Equilibrium is always optimum, and it is the case here too. It would respect natural areas and dynamics, giving them enough space to flourish, while it would also still help the city to better its air, soil and water quality. Besides, it would allow people to enjoy nature more easily, and to create an environmental consciousness as a result of coexisting with it.


  17. Being from the Bay Area I have noticed the differences in economic and sustainable practices that affect certain people in vastly different ways. It is hard to choose which two environmental factors that are important in building cities because they all correlate so much. In this case I would choose hydrology and soil being the most important when planning to build a city. In urban planning it is important to incorporate the impacts of urban and natural processes together for the betterment of environmental quality and resource consumption. Global urban areas are affected by infiltration, runoff processes, and the hydro logical cycle that is connected to the engineered water cycle. Urban landscapes need to have a well developed infrastructure to protect the water quality and prevent possible challenges to remain in a growing field. Hydrology is very important in understanding the water system with the involvement of the use of water. In most cities, water comes from the nearest lake, or reservoir that serves the general public. Public health should always come first so the availability of water shouldn’t be held from anyone. The main water source should be taken care of properly to treat people plants and animals to ensure the best quality of their lives.

    Soil is the other fundamental factor when planning for a city because it is the foundation of a plants life. Plants supply oxygen for communities and the planet. Most plants need to be rooted in the ground to provide nutrients to humankind. It is the fuel to create wood that we need to build infrastructure, and create the food that we eat. Soil also nourishes the vegetation of the animal kingdom that helps the cycle of life and supports biodiversity. Not only does soil our food chain it helps support our water supply by conserving the soil.

    Wetland communities are structured through hydro logical and soil factors, and are considered to be the primary factors in ecology. Hydrology drives the evolution of diversity and acts as a filter to species under wetland conditions. It is the reason for organic matter, organic and toxic materials as well. Some components of hydrology affect plant communities in different ways from soil moisture to its effects on biotic interactions. In today’s world it would almost impossible to create a sustainable community that incorporates green spaces. The most important part of building a city is to ensure public health for its citizens. I would go with D, where the top half is fragmented and the bottom half is mixed with social and ecological values. Social justice is a very important part of a community. People who of low income communities most of the time aren’t able to access food that is nutritious. And they live in cities that are depleted from natural resources causing them to be unhealthy people overall.

    Nature should be integrated into cities through urban design and infrastructure making it green and sustainable. Including all the factors of a sustainable ecological design, as they create municipal transportation, agricultural, industrial,and transportation sectors to better suit the city life aspect of the community.

    I think option E would also be a good choice because it incorporates open green spaces which would be available to everyone not just specific groups of people. People need nature in there communities to bring life and oxygen not just for looks or luxury purposes.


  18. When constructing a city, I think the two most important factors that come into play are hydrology and geology. Hydrology, the study of waters movement in relation to land, needs to be taken into consideration when urban planning. This can be studied to determine the risk potential of flooding and erosion due to water, when planning. Many coastal cities in Florida as well as California have been effected by rising sea levels causing erosion to the surrounding land. Flooding can also be an issue for cities that have waterways running through them. A change in rain cycle or climate can make a river or stream once deemed safe, unpredictable and hazardous to the city. Studying the hydrology of an area before building can also prevent water damage and the degradation of an existing ecosystem. The geology of an area is a key aspect as well when urban planning. The consistency and durability of the land being built on is very important. A wide, supportive foundation with ample soil can allow for building that promises longevity to a city. San Francisco is a good example of a city that has buildings on sand that are starting to see problems. Fertile soil can also allow a city to plant vegetation, creating room for wildlife and vegetation. This in turn grants cleaner air to the urban area as well as protection against erosion. When planning, I would choose option D where half allows for urban growth and provides space for all the necessities for a city to function. The other half provides enough space for ecosystems to develop and will provide much cleaner air.


  19. There are many environmental factors that are significant when it comes to influencing and creating our cities especially when it comes to topography, hydrology, geology, vegetation and soil. When it comes to deciding which two are the most in creating cities it is easy to say hydrology and vegetation are the two most significant in a sense that both have to do with the basic essentials to living as they both relate to two important life aspects; food and water. The basic definition of hydrology is the study behind the properties of water and it’s relation to land. Water is essential to cities because humans and animals at extremely large amounts a day, along with the fact that it used to build cities consume it. If water is by any chance contaminated from pollution, fracking, and toxic dumping then the health of these people are affected negatively which we have seen in Flint, Michigan. Speaking of water contamination, it is also important to understand groundwater, which is “large reservoir’s of fresh liquid water on the planet, but it is widely threatened by contamination from surface pollutants and buried waste” (Marsh, 74). Once groundwater is polluted it is difficult to clean up and without a doubt, water is a source of life and it is important to keep it clean. Watershed is also important in hydrology and for cities is that it creates an almost drainage system for cities.

    Vegetation and soil go hand in hand in creating cities. “Vegetation is a general term for the plant life of a region; it refers to the ground cover provided by plants, and is, by far, the most abundant biotic element of the biosphere” (Gohar, 2018). It is safe to say that vegetation and hydrology go hand in hand when understanding the biochemical aspect of how the earth works, as vegetation is most importantly dependent on water, carbon, and nitrogen. Vegetation also is important because it affects soil, and if the soil’s texture and chemistry are strong then the vegetative characteristics will be able to provide for wildlife and for humans.

    When deciding which option is best for how to integrate nature into cities it is definitely a tough one. In the sense that I like the idea of having nature stay completely separate from cities, but I also prefer the idea of having nature integrated into cities in hopes of having fresher air and a more appreciation for nature in our every day lives. Which is why I would prefer something towards option D where we have areas that have larger areas of fragmented and also areas that are fully mixed with nature and urbanization.


  20. In one page explain what are the most two significant environmental factors influencing and shaping our cities and why do you consider them of more importance than the other?
    Vegetation is one of the most important environmental factors to consider during land development. It affects the most diverse spectrum of environmental processes and the amount/type of vegetation can transform an entire landscape. The presence of plant-life in a community regulates several biogeochemical cycles, such as water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles. Plant roots absorb water from the ground, preventing flooding and runoff during storms, and delaying the return of fresh water to the sea, where it becomes unusable to humans. They absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen gas, and as they produce oxygen they remove pollutants (including carcinogens) from the air. If near a pond or other body of water, plants can prevent algal blooms from destroying fish life, by absorbing excess plant nutrients that often run into ponds or streams from commercial or residential fertilizers. There is also research to support the claim that an environment filled with plants increases mental health, happiness, reduces stress and stress-related ailments like hypertension. There are few people who doubt the critical nature of vegetation to human and ecosystem health.
    The other crucial consideration is hydrology, or the movement of water throughout an area. Access to plenty of fresh water is crucial to any home, even more so in a city with commercial usage. Not only is the existence of accessible water crucial when founding the city, but it must be built in a way that allows for repeated use of the same source. A city must develop sustainable infrastructure that avoids exhausting or polluting their water source. What this entails will change depending on the hydrology of the area. Awareness of various watersheds, the amount of water passing through them each year, and the final destination of rain is crucial to avoid water pollution, flooding, and unnecessary obstruction of natural processes.
    In your 2nd page, discuss, in your views, how to integrate nature in cities on the continuum below? What is your preference and why?
    Although the presence of large nature preserves is very helpful in allowing local flora and fauna to flourish despite human impacts, these preserves should be located far away from cities. Instead, green spaces within the urban environment should be made available to all residents, even if that means sacrificing individual park size. Even relatively tiny parks can increase the health and wellbeing of city-dwellers and visitors, although I would stress that the city’s job should be primarily to focus on the residents, not tourism. Large preserves are designed to limit the interactions between humans and nature, creating a wilderness home for plants and animals that can’t survive elsewhere. Cities should be designed on an entirely different principle: to maximize interactions between humans and their environment. Creating open spaces for people to walk, picnic, toss a frisbee around–this is far more important in cities than preserving whatever semblance of wilderness might remain.
    Obviously a balance must be struck in each city between tending to resident’s needs, preserving natural resources, and increasing tourism, but the residents should always come first. There also should be a distinction between wilderness preserves (such as Point Reyes National Seashore), large urban parks (Golden Gate Park), and small, neighborhood parks. The first is focused on natural resources, the second tourism, and the third urban residents. To have all three in as close proximity to the city as San Francisco does is wonderful, but from the perspective of the city planner, only the second and third should really be considered. There are many ways to make a large space like Golden Gate Park more accessible to residents of SF, but in the end the people who really use it are either those who live on the edges, in more expensive housing, or those who have free time and ability to travel there. Therefore it doesn’t have as much of an impact on the life of the city as something so massive perhaps should. What really impacts people’s lives are the small, incidental interactions with nature, facilitated by numerous green spaces scattered throughout everyday environments.


  21. I think the two most important environmental factors affecting the shape of our cities are topography and hydrology. All of the environmental factors are significant, but I think these are the most important. Topography refers to the surface of the land. This surface can be flat or sloped. Therefore, this is a big determining factor in whether it is feasible enough to build on. If the land is slope at a steep angle, there can be issues involving rock slides or mudslides. Determining the topography of an area of land can give a more three-dimensional sense of whether it could be a viable location for an urban setting. A city cannot be built without first knowing the topography.

    The hydrology is also an important factor because it too influences where we grow our crops, place our picnic and camping grounds, as well as where we build our residences and transportation infrastructure. Places that are prone to flooding are not ideal for any of these things. Also, building a town or city far from a reliable water source means more energy will be put into getting water to that location. More energy in getting water means a more severe impact on the environment. Building a city also cuts down significantly on the infiltration in that area, meaning less water will be seeping into the soil. This also cuts down on groundwater recharge, essentially the supply of groundwater, as more of the water washes away as runoff and never even gets into the soil below the city. This hydrology is influential in soil and geology. One example, written by Rogers et. al, is expansive soil. “Expansive soils owe their characteristics to the presence of swelling clay minerals” (Rogers et. al). When this clay absorbs water it expands and when it dries out it shrinks. This can do “considerable damage to lightly-loaded wood-frame structures” (Rogers et. al). Even though the soil is a component in determining how a city is built, this soil condition is dependent on hydrology.

    I feel the best way to integrate nature into cities is a hybrid of A and B. By having one or two dense areas, coupled with areas that are more equally mixed, it benefits both the natural environment and human environment as well. A more dense, concentrated forest allows for more biodiversity. It creates a larger environment where many different animal species can call home. Ideally, this densely forested area could be as close to the center of a city as possible, so more people can have equal shared access. The mix of greenery and built form is something that would be more beneficial to populations near these smaller green spaces. As they would be smaller, their biodiversity would be less, but being smaller and closer to certain communities means these communities could use the green area as they would see fit. For example, one community might choose to turn part or all of it into an urban farm. In doing so, this community would have access to fresh local and organic fruits and vegetables. This would ultimately benefit the natural environment/planet because eating locally sourced food has a substantially smaller carbon footprint than imported foods. I think the best kind of city would be able to integrate all three; dense, mixed, and fragmented.


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