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Nature of our Urban Home: How Greater Adelaide can support the biodiversity and climate crisis

The Environment Institute had an incredible evening at its second Nature Festival 2023 event titled “Nature of our Urban Home: How Greater Adelaide can support the biodiversity and climate crisis”.

Nature of Our Urban Home featured a learned panel of Costa Georgiadis, a landscape architect and television presenter, currently hosting Gardening Australia on ABC, Dr Sheryn Pitman, National Park City Project Manager at Green Adelaide and Dr Kate Delaporte,Curator of the Waite Arboretum and Waite Conservation Reserve with research interests in eucalypts, native foods and urban forests. The session was facilitated by Shannon Evenden, a science communicator and conservation management officer.

The audience were led into the conversation, with panellists describing what “urban greenspace” meant. The conversation ranged from large open spaces with diverse vegetation types, to a pot with a plant on a balcony. Costa spoke to a metaphor of greenspace being the arteries and veins of nature throughout the city connecting hubs of habitat, where every nook and cranny between built infrastructure could contribute.

Such an image aligns with Adelaide as a National Park City, a movement that broadens the concept of National Parks and highlights that cities can be a safe harbour for life, and a place to engage and connect with nature. Adelaide is currently the second National Park City, after London.

The panel echoed an emphasis on the myriad of benefits that urban greenspaces provide. Greenspaces or living infrastructure, as termed by Dr Pitman, “strengthens the resilience of the urban environment” through increased oxygen production, pollination and carbon sequestration, along with other ecosystem services. Additionally urban greenspace directly supports human health and wellbeing through mental and physical means, biodiversity by providing space for flora and fauna, and climate through carbon sequestration.

Despite the benefits of urban greenspaces, they are not always prioritised. The panel identified many challenges and barriers. Dr Delaporte spoke to the loss of urban tree canopy from development and subdividing, expansion of roads, and climate-induced challenges. Growth mindset and over-consumption are key challenges to implementing and maintaining urban greenspaces. Dr Pitman highlighted socio-economic factors, mentioning that “in the wealthier suburbs there can be up to 40% tree coverage, whereas in the lower socio-economic suburbs there can be less than 10%”. A key obstacle for implementing greenspace identified by Dr Pitman was ecological literacy i.e., knowledge and understanding of how nature works.

“What this means is that we don’t value nature, because we don’t understand it. If we don’t understand the implications on the world around us then we’re not going to be making considered decisions.” – Dr Sheryn Pitman

Left to Right: Prof Andy Lowe, Costa Georgiadis, Shannon Evenden, Dr Kate Delaporte and Dr Sheryn Pitman following the event.

There has recently been increased urgency for urban greenspaces due to rapid development and urban infill, alongside enhanced climate and biodiversity crises. Three main themes emerged for how the community can support urban greenspaces:

  1. Develop a connection to nature and foster curiosity by planting, observing and recording. By building engagement, people are more likely to protect, restore and regenerate.
  2. Be careful with the language that is used; for example, the term “crisis” can develop a sense of despair leading to apathy, and “nature” can associate a distance from it leading us to forget that “we are nature” .
  3. Re-integrate the now often siloed arts and sciences in order to create and establish meaningful action, change and behaviour.

Costa offered the final takeaway “its not about going up and finding your isolated community and setting up a utopia, but bring utopia to suburbia”.

To learn more about what’s happening in the space of green urban futures at the Environment Institute, visit Urban and Regional Landscapes research page.

This series of events was formed from a partnership between the Nature Festival, the State Library, the Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide and Dynamic State.

Don’t miss our final event in this series How do we create a safe home for nature? Looking through the lens of global megatrends impacting us locally.

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