Unpacking the Built & Natural Environments


According to discussion in class and the different ways the natural environment influence how we shape our built environment try to summarize some of the ideas discussed as follow: (1) In your first page, in your view, what are the most two significant environmental factors influencing and shaping the built environment, and why do you consider them of more importance than the other? and (2) in your second page: Discuss, in your views, and according to the ecological and social benefits debated in class, share how to integrate nature in cities on the continuum below:


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11 thoughts on “Unpacking the Built & Natural Environments

  1. One factor that plays a large role in the way the built environment has been shaped, is societies dependence on the automobile. Once cars became available to everyone it became possible for people to live outside the city but still work in the city. This encouraged people to move away from urban core and gave birth to the suburbs. It also contributed to the way that cities were developed. Everything can now be spread out across long distances because cars can get there in a relatively short amount of time. The popularity of cars also requires an extensive system of infrastructure to support cars both while they are driving and when they are parked somewhere. Almost every element in the built environment has a road and a parking lot that serves it, and in most cases these are made of impermeable surfaces that contribute to flooding and runoff pollution. Even in some of the most remote locations there are roads that allow cars to access the site.
    Another key factor that influences the built environment is the presence of water. In many cases the presence of water is the reason that a city is established in a certain location. Access to water is an amenity in many different ways, it allows people to exchange goods and services through ports. Water is also a visual amenity, which makes property near bodies of water high value. In order to develop close to the water cities have to do extensive engineering to make sure that the water is contained during storm events. Flood potential also limits where people can and can not build or the way that they can build. Like many other natural elements in the world humans try to control the way water is incorporated into the urban environment, through damming and creating engineered river banks. Water also plays a role in the cities design buildings and streetscapes to avoid flooding during storm events. Green infrastructure is a growing concept that is influencing the way that cities develop.
    There are many other features that feature the shape the development of the built environment, but I believe water, and heavy reliance on vehicular circulation are the two most influential because they are constant things that are present in every urban situation. These two factors have shaped both where people have developed and the form of the development.

    How to Incorporate Nature into Cities
    I believe that it is important to conserve larger pieces of nature near the edges of cities, in order to make sure that there are areas large enough to accommodate a diverse ecosystem, that is rich with bio-diversity. But at the same time, it is important to provide all the citizens in the city an opportunity to access nature. It has been proven that people tend to only use the public spaces that are located near where they live. I believe that there are a variety of different ways to try and provide equal access to green space for the social benefits, while at the same time conserving large spaces for the ecological benefits. One way this could be done is by conserving an area on the parameter of the city and providing public transit to the area. This strategy could be coupled with a marketing scheme that gets citizens excited about the natural experiences that they could get when visiting the conserved area or generate a type of local base eco-tourism. Another option is that cities could increase the density of development, so that while still conserving natural areas in and around the city, there would also be more room for designed green spaces within the city. Both of these solutions require that the city makes a commitment to green space and to its people. I believe that there is a way to design cities that conserve natural spaces that support diverse ecosystems, and still provides its citizens an opportunity to take advantage of the social benefits of nature.

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  2. The natural environment shapes the built environment in many ways. Some ways that the natural environment impacts the built environment is through the water cycle, groundwater systems, soil erosion, slopes, and population growth. I believe that groundwater systems and population growth are two significant environmental factors that have begun to shape our built environment. Groundwater systems are a significant factor to me because there is only so much water to go around. Cape Town, South Africa is an example of a city that is having water shortage issues. This problem of water shortages will only get worse, starting in big cities and then spreading out into the more rural lands. I believe that climate change and population growth are only lessening the water table making water shortage problems worse. Climate change is continuing to make the world warmer, resulting in drier landscapes and the need for more water to keep ecosystems alive. Without water, our planet will turn into nothingness. Nothing can live without it. Population has become a big issue because many of the cities that we know today were not built for the numerous amounts of population that they now have. The cities are beginning to run out of space because of the influx of people who are moving there for job opportunities or for the city benefits. I believe that we as designers and innovative thinkers, need to take a second look at the cities that we see today and design them around the needs of the people who call them home.

    It is important to create natural spaces in these built environments, but the question is how should the city be organized so that all social classes can have outdoor spaces to enjoy? I believe that leaning towards the more mixed, built and natural environment will help because humans will have a better connection to the natural environment. I think that this is the best option because if the city was built for one side that is strictly urban and the other to be strictly natural preservation, not all of the social classes that are in a city will not be able to enjoy the outdoors. One thing that a more dense environment would have over fragmented or mixed, is more diversity in native plants and animals. Having bigger spaces that are mixed with built and natural, will still have some native plants and animals, but all types of social classes would have closer access to the natural spaces. It is important to have natural spaces for people because of the many benefits that the natural environment can give. Studies show that humans have less stress and anxiety, as well as many other benefits, when interacting with nature. If the built versus natural environment was dense not as many people would be able to enjoy all the positive effects that the natural environment can give. The fragmented version of built versus natural environment would not create fluid ecosystems that many species can enjoy, therefore creating bigger spaces for both built and natural environments will create a happy medium for all of those who are involved.

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  3. Part1:
    The two environmental factors I think are significant in shaping the built environment are water and topography. Since the beginning of time, we have discovered the benefits of water and how crucial it is for living. Most cities were built around some presence of water. We use it as a place for transport both daily and recreationally, importing and exporting goods between cities, regions, and countries, and lastly, a place of visual importance. But when living by some type of body of water, it does place threats onto the development around it as well as the body of water itself. Water determines where people can or cannot live due to its risk of flooding and how close people can get to the water because of its changing and instable banks. One problem with developing cities near water bodies is pollution. Polluted stormwater runoff, waste disposal, and some human interaction with water are damaging that development’s source of water and in result, people in many places have turned their back, covered up the source, or we have engineered techniques to continue to live by water for the visual and other aesthetic benefits.
    Topography is another environmental factor that influences development. We like to build in places where the topography is not as dramatic or instable. This is because it requires a lot more money, effort, and time to do otherwise. For example, in most cases, we are more likely to build in the valleys of mountains rather than on the slope or on top of that mountain. Topography also changes more frequently over time than a flatter part of the earth due to erosion and vulnerability. Water runoff erodes the earth much faster on steep slopes which makes this much more vulnerable during storms or natural disasters such as earthquakes. In addition to these limiting factors, it is also much more difficult to build dense urban environments on dramatic topographic zones because is not ideal for reaching resources. This would result in a decrease of the economy as well as, the social aspects of cities.
    I feel that these two factors are the most influential because they physically determine where we can and cannot build. I think that other environmental factors such as population growth and climate change can be mitigated much more easily than water and topography which are bigger systems than we will ever be able to change. It would take tremendous leaps in technology to be able to ignore these two factors when building or expanding cities.

    Part 2:
    The idea of integrating nature into cities is a very difficult topic. I have a lot of mixed feelings about the two extremes of dividing nature and the urban environment as well as completely breaking up nature for cities. First, I want to talk about the benefits of both extremes and then how I feel we should integrate the two.
    The idea of completely splitting up nature for green space to be integrated into cities has many positives and negatives. Through an environmental lens, I think that this option is destroying the idea of have diverse strong communities of animals and vegetational life. As we talked about in class, if there is not enough space for all the layers of the ecological processes to happen, that ecological community is going to be weaker if effected by an indifference. If you look at it through a social lens, then you could view it as everyone has their own piece of green space and it is accessible to all social classes, but you will not have the animals, bugs, vegetation, ect. that you would have in a large coherent ecosystem. I also think that fragmenting green space depending on the size of the green space (for example, if it is a block vs a backyard) is very different. If we were to strategically transform a block of the city into public green space and repeat this several times throughout the urban environment, it would be beneficial and allow more plants and animals to thrive (of course not everything though). If green space was fragmented into strips of backyards, it would only be benefitting the people. People are good at claiming and privatizing things that they feel are theirs and so if they were half of blocks, as the image of this blog represents, I feel that the social aspects would start to decline as people with more money would start to privatize.
    Secondly, if we were to preserve all the remaining large ecosystems such as a prairie, forest, or national parks, ecologically that ecosystem is going to thrive and be able be more resilient in the case of a natural disaster or indifference. This would also require that all people be required to stay within a certain boundary and that our cities not expand horizontally but vertically. I do not see densifying cities and expanding vertically as a negative but instead a positive. If we did this we could control the amount or what type of expansion we did into the preserved areas of the natural environment. This option would also mean that the urban fabric would need to be readjusted to introduce its own pockets of green space. In a way this is what we are currently doing, but we aren’t densifying infrastructure, instead we expand out if there is not enough room.
    Overall, I think that I like the idea of integrating nature into cities in a mixed way is the best. Like I wrote earlier, I think that green space should be fragmented into many different sizes in many types of areas. There can be sizes of land within the city that serve whole communities and act as gardens, parks, and nurseries; some areas that are a little smaller that provide rooftop and plaza use; and much larger areas of land that is preserved for animals and some human contact such as national parks and preserved research sites. At the end of the day, we need to serve both animals and people as one cannot live without the other.

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  4. Part 1: Important Environmental Factors
    There are several environmental factors that must be considered when designing the landscape to reduce negative impact on the environment and understand suitability. Although, there are many factors, the two I believe to be the most important are hydrology and topography. Both factors can cause substantial damage if not carefully considered. Hydrology patterns must be analyzed because it shows the watersheds and drainage within a location. Landscape architects are implementing green infrastructure practices, such as green roofs, permeable paving, and bio-retention cells, to decrease hard surface and runoff in urban environments. In many locations’ current infrastructure can’t withstand the amount of increased runoff, therefore, urbanization is causing floods to occur. By evaluating topography, we can understand low points on the map to see where water will run and collect to ensure that future structures won’t be negatively impacted. The other factor is topography. Since different site design elements require certain slope percentages, it is important for designers to understand the landscape before considering locations for these elements. This will reduce harm to ecosystems within the area, reduce construction costs, and decrease chances of failure. Not properly considering slope leads to landslides and soil erosion. This can be reduced by incorporating vegetation with vigorous root systems. Suitability, vulnerability and failure can be determined by creating slope maps and using Arch GIS.

    Part 2: Integrating Nature in Cities
    I believe that nature should be mixed, but dense within the urban environment (approximately a B on the chart). This will allow large enough spaces for ecosystems to thrive and provide habitats for wildlife. Large spaces will allow for natural processes to still occur, as opposed to the smaller fragmented spaces that lose natural qualities. By intertwining nature within the urban environment, it will promote social equity to ensure that it is accessible to everyone. If there were to only one, large natural area, the surrounding locations would be expensive, and it would not be sustainable for the community. Also, people located further away from the natural area¬ may not have proper transportation for them to access the green space. It is important for people to have access to nature within their daily lives for emotional, physical, and psychological well-being. People that live far away would not be able to experience these benefits, subjecting them to air pollution, lack in quality of life, and “Nature Deficit Disorder” in childhood development. Peoples exposure to nature creates a greater appreciation and will determine future conservation practices. By implementing fragments of nature, I believe, it would be more beneficial to people but less beneficial to the environment. We need to find ways to incorporate nature in cities that will create accessible green space, but have successful ecosystems containing native vegetation and animals.

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  5. Among the various environmental factors affecting the built environment, two of the most significant ones, in my opinion, are topography and hydrology. Topography directly influences the built environment by limiting the location and siting of development. Extreme elevated or depressed landforms considerably limit built spaces. The access, accessibility, costs, aesthetics, materials, and structural requirements of built spaces vary for flat topography versus sloped land. To introduce development in a sloped site would mean to grade the site so that the architectural and landscape site elements are easily accessible for people of all abilities. Structural requirements such as height and depth of footings for buildings, and mechanisms for retention of land would necessitate extensive thought while building on slopes. Topography also affects drainage and runoff, as well as microclimate and orientation. Windward sides of a hill experience moist air and precipitation, whereas more warm, dry climates can be expected in leeward sides, with strong wind speeds, imposing more wind loads on buildings. The air also thins out with increasing elevation and gets cooler, limiting development on mountaintops. Topography can also influence orientation of buildings: vernacular settlements are usually built on the south-facing slopes to maximize solar gain. Also, disturbances to slope through deforestation, cut and fill, and alteration of drainage can cause slope failures and erosion (Marsh 2010). Thus landform characteristics need to be assessed before attempting to develop the built environment.

    Water or hydrology is another significant environmental factor that affects how built spaces are planned and designed. Settlements have always been planned around water bodies for access to water for agriculture, recreation, transport and ultimately sustenance of societies. Water bodies also pose limitations. Building on the floodways can be detrimental, which is why there are building bye-laws restricting buildings to a certain distance away from water bodies. For good watershed-based planning, built spaces should be planned for the contributing zones of the watershed, and should avoid the collection zone and the conveying zone, which are more susceptible to drainage problems and flooding (Marsh 2010). There is also a certain carrying capacity for watersheds, which limits the extent of development that the watershed can endure. In addition to surface water systems, the built environment is also affected by groundwater systems and flows. The depth of the water table can influence building structures and types of foundations. We should not build chemical factories near water bodies, so that we are not polluting the water with chemical leachates flowing through the surface and the ground to the water bodies. The effects of these two environmental factors are more direct and sizeable than other factors such as vegetation or geology. Built spaces are designed around landform and water, which is why I think these are the two most important environmental factors.

    Integration of nature has always been an important consideration in city planning. The New York City area with Central Park, and Hong Kong with its dense development and centralized Hong Kong Park are examples where open green spaces are separated from the dense, concentrated development, as opposed to the dispersed green spaces of Singapore. Both of these models have their own advantages and limitations. The dense development model creates opportunities for greater ecological diversity in the natural space. However, it could also lead to social stratification of the built environment based on distance from the green space. The other model distributes green spaces to smaller fragments throughout the city. While this type of development creates better opportunities for the people to access the green spaces, they can only support limited biodiversity. The mixed development would provide bigger natural spaces while allowing access, but mediums are not always happy. Based on the size of the development, the mixed model would probably not be able to achieve social equity or biodiversity to the extent that is desired because the urban infringement would not allow above-average biodiversity, and the fragmentation would still be big enough to create more localized social stratifications, resulting in disjointed communities.

    Personally I am a bit more inclined towards the left-sided extreme, or the dense development and the unfragmented nature of green space because of the ecological diversity that it provides. Fragmentation of green spaces would create a Garden City-like development, ultimately morphing into suburban sprawl (lack of mixed-use development, vehicle-dependency, etc.). It could even mean a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)-type attitude towards the green spaces, or a sense of care only for their own green space. The dispersed green spaces would ensue more urban uses such as playgrounds and gardening, but not the ecological benefits that a nature preserve or national park would give. Having a large common natural space would create various recreational and economic opportunities, such as wildlife watches and ecological tourism. The social stratification problem could still minimized by providing good public transit and walkable/bikeable connections to the green space. Moreover, green spaces within the dense development areas could still be provided in the form of street trees, green roofs and other green infrastructure. Thus, I think a larger green space with good connections to it would be better.

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  6. While the built environment is pushed and formed through many forces, two of the main factors that have influenced it over the years is the vehicle use and population growth. Ever since the private automobile was mass produced over 100 years ago, we have exponentially began to rely more heavily on cars and transportation systems. While it provides benefits for travel and efficiency, it comes with the issue of pollution, destruction of habitats (roads, highways, parking lots, etc.), and distance. As it becomes easier to move greater distances, the need to have amenities and resources closer to home has diminished drastically. Therefore, suburban environments are a major issue and many people are advocating for high density development. The destruction of the natural environment, use of natural resources, and pollution are all issues we face today due to our reliance on vehicles. Because of this need, there has also been little utilization of public space since the integration of vehicles. Since traveling is easy and can be done privately, the need for storage space is much more influential than a person’s need for physical and social activity in a public park.
    The second major factor influencing the built environment is population growth. As our society grows almost exponentially, the demand for more land and resources goes up with it. In America, when the population increased substantially because of the baby boomers, there was a rush to create housing for everyone. There is little or no thought for the natural environment because most people are concerned with making sure everyone has their own place to live and contribute to society. With this comes a vast increase in resources. A larger population means more farmland needs to be created to feed the people, more power needs to be generated so everyone has light and electricity, and more buildings so that everyone has basic shelter and a personal space. Population increase works hand-in-hand with vehicle dependence because of our vast need to utilize and for our personal and economic gains. A larger population requires more land and neighborhoods, which require large transport systems to navigate through each community, let alone travel to adjacent communities.
    Integrating nature into our built environment has been a debate for a long time. I feel that we are moving towards a society that sees the need for nature within cities. Therefore, completely segregating the to environments is not only impractical but I feel it is impossible to implement. Then again, if we were to completely divide the natural environment and cross it with the built environment (as seen in the fragmented section of the diagram) the benefits of the natural environment would be diminished. Many animals that require large habitats would not be able to live in these small segmented areas, and the smaller areas might not be well maintained due to their numbers. I propose that a mix of various sizes of integration occur so that green space in some places focus on ecological preservation and others focus on social aspects. Social equity is an important part of the built environment, so providing some green space for all is vital to build social ties. At the same time, larger areas could be set aside to focus more on the ecological preservation and natural benefits that come with green space. This option would require careful planning to ensure that (1) people from all socio-economic backgrounds are provided with rightful access to green space, (2) public green areas of all types should have ample space and can be maintained efficiently and (3) ensure that people are educated on the various benefits of each space and will use them accordingly so they do not encroach heavily on areas meant for wildlife habitat. While I do not believe any one place should be inaccessible to people, they should know respect for the green space and realize its ecological benefits. Overall, I think fragmentation of the natural environment is the most logical plan to provide social equity and ecological benefits to the city itself but doing so at various sizes and by different uses will help provide more natural habitats while still allowing access to society. Our society has just as much right to nature and its uses as other species, but our use of it is not always beneficial. To maintain the best possible use of these spaces, whether it is fragmented or not, education will be a primary factor in showing people the benefits of nature and how best to maintain it.

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  7. The two most significant environmental factors that are shaping and influencing the built environment is flooding and climate change. With the current trends of sea level rise we are seeing the negative effects along the coastlines. Specifically in the United States of America, some states have laws against current methods to protect the coast. North Carolina in 2011, passed a law that wouldn’t allow anyone to use mitigation measurements against storm surges, because they wanted the coast for development. Today, North Carolina is seeing the implications of their choices. Storm surges such as hurricanes are leaving major destruction in their paths and law makers have yet to figure out hat our actions are contributing to the problem.
    The earth is warming and the effects are sea level rise, temperature rise, heat waves, stronger storm surges, and more. These effects are changing our lives and sometimes we can’t keep up with them. What should be happening is the mitigation and preventative measures, such as, protecting the coast lines, mitigating green house gases, and being a part of the solution instead of the problem.

    Both of these environmental factors are a large undertaking, but if there is no action to resolve them, then we will continue to see the degradation of our earth and society. The current administration is making it difficult as a country to make these large changes. Therefore, it is up to the state and local governments to be a part of the change. Even further, it beings with one person. One person wanting to change the way the earth is being treated and wanting to protect their homes and families. That one person can talk to their friends and families, or even call their local governments and express why it is dire to make these changes!
    The effects of flooding can take years to recover and it isn’t something that people can control, but we can be better about preventing and mitigating them. As far as climate change goes, we can prevent and change a lot of the way we do things. This topic is more in our control because we created it. It is time to take ownership of our mistakes and move towards mending them.

    Incorporating nature into cities has been occurring for years and years. There are many views on how much nature should be in cities and I believe having a good mix is important. Having a dense portion of nature in a city could be offering it to a select group of people instead of providing nature to the masses. Having a dense portion in the city also only greens one area. When I am in a plane I would rather see a mix of green spaces than one large green space. Looking at a city that has green throughout makes me believe that the city, and people, itself are happier and healthier.
    Having nature mixed throughout the cities may not offer all the same opportunities as a dense green space, such as, a variety of wildlife and vegetation, but the mixed does offer a piece of land for people to go and see aspects of nature and ecosystems. The mixed offers a place of social gathering within the local communities and can intensify the relationships of neighbors. When people enjoy their green spaces, they can create a sense of ownership and the space will be well kept.
    When nature begins to be fragmented we are impacting the ecosystems negatively. There is less biodiversity and the spaces may not be well kept. The spaces might become degraded because the upkeep is too much or some groups may take to much ownership to one area and no one else can enjoy the space. There is less social interaction between the neighborhoods and people may stick to the greenspace that is closest to the.
    That is why having a mixed amount of green space in the cities is vital. The ecosystems have a better chance of thriving and the social interactions will be increased compared to the fragmented and the dense green spaces.

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  8. The different environmental factors listed in the reading all demonstrate the importance of understanding the relationship between operations of the existing natural world and how human interact with it. I believe that the two most significant environmental factors influencing the built environment are water and soils. Starting off, I undoubtedly believe that water is one of the most important resources and has greatly impacted human settlements in the past, a trend that will continue differently into the coming future. Throughout history, cities were established based on their proximity to water sources for water and food sources, ranging from the coasts, rivers, and lakes. The establishment of more modern technology (like aquifers) has enabled human to live farther away from water, but the growth of population coupled with the mismanagement of water resources has led to a depletion of our water sources. Not only are humans facing the problem of too little water, but also dealing with how to handle the increase of water levels, as sea levels continue to rise and threaten coastal cities. This will continue to affect how coasts are going to transform and how the major populating cities on the coasts will interact. The second environmental factor that I think is important is soils, for how they are currently changing and will determine usage of spaces. Looking to Cairo as an example, the area was settled in ancient times as a suitable agricultural land from its fertile soils, but has since lost some of its richness since the construction of the dam and extreme rate of construction in the region. Topsoils that provide nutrients for vegetation to grow are being lost and eroded, as well as being compromised by development, and will limit soil stability and ability for vegetation to grow there. Specifically looking at the interaction between native, agricultural and built land, planners and designers are going to have to look at managing that relationship to preserve soils that are being stripped of nutrients by harmful practices and injection of chemicals from human use. I find both water and soils to be the most important because of the danger the present to future development if people don’t change their ways and continue on this path of ignorance instead of acknowledging environmental impacts and take efforts for preservation.
    Part 2:
    Looking at the continuum we debated in class, I am really torn between the two sides for their different focuses on social and/or environmental protection. I am a large proponent of maintaining our untouched and expansive forest land to preserve habitat and animal species that will disappear with development. However, on the human side, I love the idea of having fragmented greenspace spread through cities so that more people will have equal access. This fragmented form seems very utopian and idealistic, like sometime you would see in a movie, where everyone from every socio-economic background would be offered the same opportunities and amount of greenspace. This difference between the two seems to come at a price of the lives of different animal species and vegetation that would not be able to safely live in these smaller and more urban areas. I see now how this topic connects to looking at the value of life from humans and animals as we debated in class, which is still a very hard topic to look at. Like I talked about in the preservationist vs. conservationist debate, I have always had much love for people like John Muir who are immense proponents of maintaining existing natural areas. In my life however, having greater experience and knowledge of the challenges that communities face (specifically lower income neighborhoods), I believe that people should have a right to access green space in close proximity. I think in an ideal society, we would have a combination of all different types of integration, mixed together like a quilt, to provide both people and nature as much equality and opportunity as possible. Since I know that isn’t a straight answer, I think for the sake of this argument I would lean towards the mixed integration. Just because the multitudes of greenspace wouldn’t be exactly spread out as is described in the fragmented versions, there are other alternatives to established about green space that could still be integrated within the dense landscapes like plazas and parks. As much as I want to see equal amounts of green space awarded equally to all people, I don’t think I can get one hundred percent behind splitting it up and separating it, seemingly just for people to use. Trying to achieve balance will be key to any major planning and deciding relationships going forward into the future, and I don’t know if we’ll find it by only picking one of these relationships.

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  9. Part 01 |
    The two most significant factors influencing the built environment and shaping our urban fabric are water and agricultural lands. Both of these factors are integral to our existence and have been contiguous with the success and evolution of modern-day civilization. Waters influence the landscape and shaping of our environment have been a major part of our decisions throughout history to choose where to development, plant our crops, to hunt and fish. The ability to have fresh clean water readily available is quite literally the lifeblood of all civilization and living things collectively. During the aforementioned times, water was key to survival and was viewed as an immeasurable source of wealth within the community. In the modern day almost, all major cities are built up around some significant source of water be it Chicago alongside Lake Michigan, Twin Cities and the Mississippi, or even New Orleans and Gulf Coast. Each of these examples places an emphasis on the body of water he or she is adjacent to and impact the communities surrounding them. The reasons backing why I consider water to hold more environment significance is its multifaceted nature, representing history, trade, commerce, wildlife, recreation, and place where people congregate openly and freely. Although waters significance isn’t always treated with the respect it deserves, it can become a dumping ground for trash and other forms of pollutants and waste byproducts. I also feel that these interactions with water shape our built environment in more site-specific ways and change the way we parcel out of cities within the urban fabric.
    Another major player influencing the shape of our built environment is agriculture and large areas of land dedicated to feeding people and livestock. I am torn when it comes to agriculture, because of my upbringing. I grew up in a small agricultural town in southern Minnesota that was centered around agriculture as a means of life. As of late, I have been introduced to ideas that change my prior convictions of ag land, including the use of genetically modifying crops, heavy use of chemicals including pesticides and herbicides, and that almost all production crops are grown as monocultures without any sort of biodiversity what so ever. These are all factors that play into our “built” environment and how we are actively shaping our environment and sometimes without being cognizant of the impacts in the long term. Similarly, some of the most crucial agriculture lands in the Midwest rely on heavy artificial methods to watering their crops and ensuring moister in the soil. This constant drawing of water has caused us to arrive a point where we have depleted our main source of water, being the Ogallala aquifer, to the point of no return. It’s near impossible to allow the aquifer enough time to replenish its natural water reserves and continue with agriculture trends that are currently prevailing. I consider this to carry more importance than other environmental factors because we rely on mass agriculture to feed use, and as a source of revenue for economic gain. Other reasons I chose agriculture is because I feel it can improve the most with the least amount of initial capital needed, through a series of incremental changes to our production methods, which haven’t experienced truly groundbreaking revision of change since the implementation of modern farming equipment, could make for a more sustainable future and greener horizon for how we nourish ourselves and are more conscious of the impacts that it has on our environment.

    Part 02 |
    I feel strongly that truly naturalized areas should be set aside from cities and urban environments. In my experience, they become something along the lines of living museums and relics of what was once there. They are places that we visit and often appreciate but subconsciously acknowledge that fact that they are artificial and not truly crafted by mother nature. I feel it is this piece that is integral to the argument for the left-wing side of the continuum that argues for dense natural areas. It’s very easy in my mind to generalize and not acknowledge current trends without our communities. The minority group of people who are utilizing public space is the people who miss out in this thinking which makes me wonder about the scale and area in which we are impacting. In my mind landscape architecture as a profession should fall along the middle of the line, and argue for the best of both worlds, incorporates larger green spaces within our communities that hold meaning and are accessible but not so parceled out that the programming and site amenities are handicapped by the lack of space. In a larger context outside the city realm, I would want areas dedicated to wildlife preserves and untouched nature. These public lands, if you will are areas in which not intrusive recreation activities can occur outside of the density and complexity of the urban expanse. Things like hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, bird watching, rock climbing, and swimming. All of which at a large naturalized area scale, are beneficial to the conservation and future of the ecosystem. I understand the three scenarios described above are happening and will continue to occur simultaneously. That’s where my opinion of the topic questioned shift to a more dynamic response to the continuum. I don’t think any of the proposed methods of integrating nature into cities could reach its full potential without the other supporting it. A city is dense in its own nature and full of a variety of scales, hierarchy to space, general organization, and underlying grids all overlaid over each other forming a complex tapestry of identifiable patterns and textures. I would argue that this formal argument often occurs without the integration of green spaces within the pattern, most cities and developments are driven by developers who’s end goal the highest payout per capita they can possibly achieve. I believe the goal of this week’s discussion topic would be to better appreciate the value of shared green space within the community and at the neighborhood scale. The subtle interactions that occur at this scale have a sort of rippling effect on the community as a whole. Something as simple as a smile when passing another person or quick hello can change people’s perception of the place they live and work. These positive vibes get sent out into the world and inherently make it a better place to be.

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  10. Throughout history, humans have been shaping their environment according to their needs and desires. Some of this development has been based on natural processes while most has disregarded the functional needs of the earth. Now, it is becoming clear that this behavior cannot continue if the world is to succeed. Two significant environmental factors that must be addressed are population growth and deforestation.

    World population is currently at 7.5 billion people and is predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 (1). At this rate, the earth is simply running out of resources to feed and house everyone. With so many people joining the planet, more food needs to be produced which means more land must be cleared for farming and animal meat production. This leads to large tracts of land being used for unsuitable purposes, erosion, water waste, pesticide contamination and deforestation among other things. There is also a shortage of space. With more people living on earth, they all need places to live. Cities must densify immensely in order to accommodate the influx. The move towards building out must stop in place of building up. Additionally, a larger population means more waste generated. Excess waste leads to pollution and sickness since many places do not have adequate treatment procedures. The rise in population is also causing a rise in emissions which accelerates climate change. Throwing climate change into the mix stirs the already uncomfortable pot that is the growing world population. This issue is more important than other environmental factors because it affects a wide range of categories. More people means less food, water and space to go around.

    Deforestation is another factor that negatively impacts the environment. Natural forests are often cut down for agriculture and logging purposes. Regardless of the reason, deforestation destroys natural ecosystems. Without a forest, many organisms would go extinct. Deforestation also causes erosion since tree roots are no longer there to prevent it. Additionally, climate change is hastened by the loss of trees since they absorb greenhouse gases and hold moisture in the soil. Furthermore, forests purify the air, ridding it of toxins that make it difficult to breathe. This issue is important in the environmental argument since these ecosystems are irreplaceable and being lost as a rapid rate (2).

    With the rise in population and the loss of natural ecosystems, it is important that people have access to nature for their health and well-being. It is debated whether preserving dense natural areas or splitting up green spaces into smaller chunks is more desirable. In my opinion, I think it is critical to have both. Places that are ecologically stable and close to their original state should be maintained and protected as much as possible. This is what is best for the environment and people across the world. However, it is not right to limit access to park space to a few people. New approaches need to be invented. The garden city ideal of putting small park spaces within reach of everyone needs to be put to rest. There are other ways of incorporating nature into cities such as green roofs and vertical farming. Lessons along this vein can be learned from Singapore. This tiny country is completely urbanized yet covered in almost 50% green space. They are committed to sustainability and having access to nature. They are also proponents of vertical gardens and farming which cover the insides and outsides of buildings (3). If cities in the United States placed a real priority on protecting existing natural areas while still providing place-specific green spaces in cities, they could come up with solutions easily. The problem is not in what should be done, it’s in the attitude of those in charge. Sprawl needs to be put to an end immediately. Maybe it’s idealistic to claim that both dense and fragmented natural areas can coexist, but I believe if more people were coming up with new ideas to face the coming population wave, it could be done.


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