Tag Archives: Urban

Does green infrastructure represent a sound investment opportunity?

By Steve Cinderby, University of York, UK, and Sue Bagwell, London Metropolitan University, UK. 

Globally our societies are becoming increasingly urbanised with the United Nations (UN) reporting that already the majority of people live in urban settings with predictions this will rise to 66 per cent by 2050. Historically this has often meant increasingly constructed, grey, environments, however, there are increasing demands to green our cities with the introduction of more plants and trees.

Last month London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, unveiled plans to make the English capital the world’s first “National Park City” by 2019. With initial funding of £9M the intention is to increase the amount of green space including encouraging the development of more green roofs, green walls and rain gardens. This initiative connects to the UN Sustainable Development goals for cities and the calls for accessible greenspace made in the New Urban Agenda that emerged after the 2016 UN Summit on Future Cities.

Whilst some have highlighted the challenges for an existing cityscape like London of introducing more green into the urban fabric alongside demands for housing, businesses and service infrastructure recently published research indicates that the Mayor’s plan could bring not just environmental benefits (reducing surface water flooding, improving air quality, cooling urban heat islands and increasing local wildlife diversity) but also improve the mental health and well-being of Londoner’s and increase the economic vitality of the city.

Our newly published Area paper describes the impact of introducing a relatively small number of green infrastructure schemes around Victoria station in London. The findings illustrate that as well as the known environmental returns investing in urban green infrastructure within existing neighbourhoods could also make sound financial sense. The research provides new evidence that city greenery can increase customer footfall particularly for retail and leisure businesses, encouraging visitors to ‘linger-longer’ and potentially ‘spend more’ in a pleasanter environment. In our city workplaces the study found that investing in office greenspace improved staff member’s morale and work satisfaction. Greener workplace setting also seem to encourage staff to adopt more sustainable behaviours including better energy saving and recycling again potentially bringing both environmental and economic benefits.

This new evidence indicates that, alongside the London Mayoral investment, the city’s private enterprises should also consider financing the incorporation of more green infrastructure into new building schemes whilst retrofitting green walls and street trees into existing neighbourhoods where possible. These improvements could boost their economic value for retail and desirability for employers. A National Park City investments could not only make environmental sense but could bring sound financial and well-being benefits as well.

About the authors: Steve Cinderby is a Senior Researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), University of York. Sue Bagwell is Research Development Manager at the Cities Institute London Metropolitan University. 

60-world2 BBC 2017 London mayor launches bid to improve city’s green credentials http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-40899234 11 August 2017

books_icon Cinderby, S. and Bagwell, S. (2017), Exploring the co-benefits of urban green infrastructure improvements for businesses and workers’ wellbeing. Area. doi:10.1111/area.12361

60-world2 Sofianos G (2017) Mayor wants to make London world’s first National Park City LondonLovesBusiness http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com/business-news/london-news/mayor-wants-to-make-london-worlds-first-national-park-city/17132.article 11 August 2017

60-world2 UN New Urban Agenda http://habitat3.org/

Geography, Urban Geomorphology and Sustainability

By Mary Thornbush, Brock University, Canada

WordItOut-word-cloud-1071134With the expansion of cities around the world, there is an increasing emphasis within geography to consider urban environments, and the impacts humans have on the environment more generally. This opens up opportunities for the development of human-environment investigations within the context of current urban studies.

Working within the context of human impacts on their environment, it is possible to integrate studies so that they holistically examine both human and physical components of the environment. This has already been an integral part of human geography, but is novel within physical geography and geomorphology specifically, where the sub-field of urban geomorphology has recently experienced some growth from the framework of human-environment interactions. In addition, sustainability has gained attention within geomorphology, and there has been, for instance, a recent special issue on ‘Human Impacts on Landscapes: Sustainability and the Role of Geomorphology’ published in Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie by Hudson et al. (2015). This approach recognizes the importance of long-term studies within the domain of geomorphology, and is applicable to studies of environmental change that is currently affecting cities and shaping urban geomorphology.

The key landscapes examined within an urban context are still diverse, encompassing (for instance) rivers, karst, uplands, deserts, tropics, etc. Within this special section on ‘Geography, Urban Geomorphology and Sustainability,’ there is a focus on rivers, karst and applied geomorphology, with six papers delineating urban geomorphology in settings where there is a concentration of urbanisation and natural environments have been altered by humanity and natural processes, which in turn modify human structures, as is the case with the weathering of historical buildings and structures. Case studies are central to this special section, illustrating key contemporary issues from a long-term perspective and considering the future of human-environment interactions and landscape change.

Specifically, this special section of Area presents a diversity of papers that range from Europe to North America. First, Thornbush (2015) provides a long-term assessment (16 years) following the implementation of the Oxford Transport Strategy (OTS) in central Oxford, UK. She employs the historical buildings located in the city centre as a measurement tool in order to gauge post-OTS environmental change. Second, Randall and Baetz (2015) relay their land-use diversity index (LDI) as a GIS-based model to determine sub-urban sprawl applied in Ontario, Canada. Third, Martín-Díaz et al. (2015) offer a post-war examination of planning policy and land-use planning in Sarajevo that is relevant to urban development within geomorphology. The second half of the special section focuses on rivers. A fourth paper by Sammonds and Vietz (2015) approaches urbanisation in greenfield sites from the perspective of stream naturalisation. Fifth, Shuker et al. (2015) likewise approach stream restoration, but from a hydromorphological perspective. Finally, Booth and Fischenich (2015) similarly address stream restoration through their channel evolution model that focuses on urban sustainability.

Together, these papers contribute towards the development of urban geomorphology from a sustainability perspective of long-term landscape change. Theirs is an integrated approach of human-environment interactions in urban settings. With more human impacts on the natural environment, it is necessary to acknowledge and consider more human-affected landscapes as well unaffected natural landscapes, which are increasingly harder to find. Separating the human-nature signatures in the environment is becoming a challenge; however, such interdisciplinary investigations could make a contribution towards the development of urban geomorphology and sustainable environments.

About the author: Dr Mary Thornbush is an Adjunct Professor within the Department of Geography at Brock University, Canada. Her research interests include: interdisciplinary and applied geomorphology; weather science and landscape change; and geomorphological fieldwork and field-based training.

Special section papers: 

books_icon Thornbush, M. 2015 Geography, urban geomorphology and sustainability. Area. doi: 10.1111/area.12218 (introduction to special section)


books_icon Booth D B and Fischenich C J 2015 A channel evolution model to guide sustainable urban stream restoration Area DOI: 10.1111/area.12180

books_icon Martín-Díaz J, Nofre J, Oliva M and Palma P 2015 Towards an unsustainable urban development in post-war Sarajevo Area DOI: 10.1111/area.12175

books_iconRandall T A and Baetz B W 2015 A GIS-based land-use diversity index model to measure the degree of suburban sprawl Area DOI: 10.1111/area.12182

books_icon Sammonds M J and Vietz G J 2015 Setting stream naturalisation goals to achieve ecosystem improvement in urbanising green-field catchments Area DOI: 10.1111/area.12181

books_icon Shuker J L, Moggridge H L and Gurnell A M 2015 Assessment of hydromorphology following restoration measures in heavily modified rivers: illustrating the potential contribution of the Urban River Survey to Water Framework Directive investigations Area DOI: 10.1111/area.12185

books_icon Thornbush M J 2015 Building health assessed through environmental parameters after the OTS in the city centre of Oxford, UK Area DOI: 10.1111/area.12161


books_icon Hudson P, Goudie A and Asrat A 2015 Human impacts on landscapes: sustainability and the role of geomorphology Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie 59 1–5

Where’s Climate Change Gone?

By Martin Mahony

MEC's green roof among others by sookie (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Many commentators on the current US presidential election campaigns have noted – or bemoaned – a seeming conspiracy of silence when it comes to climate change. Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney seem keen to make the issue a centrepiece of their respective campaigns, regardless of where they seem to stand on the question of how to deal climate change, or indeed whether it’s a problem at all.

In the UK, critics of the Conservative-led coalition government have been keen to point out that David Cameron’s pledge to lead the “greenest government ever” is starting to sound rather hollow. Like in the US, climate change barely figures on the national political agenda. Perhaps this could be attributed to the current primacy of economic and fiscal issues in political debate. However, it may also be indicative of a broader trend which has seen climate change governance re-scaled away from the nation-state and international negotiations, towards new networks of cities, municipalities and regional governments.

As illustrated by Harriet Bulkeley and Vanesa Castán Broto in a recent article in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, a variety of governmental practices have emerged at the urban scale which seek to address climate change mitigation and adaptation. Through diverse social and technical practices, “climate change experiments” have been enacted which have positioned mitigation and adaptation nearer to the centre of rationales for urban transition and renewal. However, far from being simply the spill-over effects of a governance system which lacks the capacity to address climate change in a formal and coherent manner, these new political spaces highlight the complex processes by which new norms and goals circulate in practice through social and technical interventions in the urban fabric.

The kind of interventions which Bulkeley and Broto discuss include formal policy measures such as the establishment of carbon markets, grassroots movements such as ‘Transition Towns’, and the development of new architectural forms which respond to the needs of energy efficiency. While such initiatives are often dismissed as being insufficient responses to the scale of the climate change challenge, Bulkeley and Broto suggest in their exciting new research agenda that analysts need to engage more seriously with the growing number of processes by which climate change is being responded to in urban settings. While climate change may have disappeared from our national political debates, it is increasingly a potent motivator of political action in our cities.

 Harriet Bulkeley and Vanesa Castán Broto, 2012, Government by experiment? Global cities and the governing of climate changeTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers, DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00535.x

 The 2012 election’s only bipartisan consensus: not to talk climate changeThe Guardian

Geography Compass Content Alert: Volume 6, Issue 4 (April 2012)

Cover image for Vol. 6 Issue 4The latest issue of Geography Compass is available on Wiley Online Library.

Issue Information

Issue Information (pages i–ii)
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00488.x

Atmosphere & Biosphere

Mastodons and Mammoths in the Great Lakes Region, USA and Canada: New Insights into their Diets as they Neared Extinction (pages 175–188)
Catherine H. Yansa and Kristin M. Adams
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00483.x

Ecological Disaster or the Limits of Observation? Reconciling Modern Declines with the Long‐Term Dynamics of Whitebark Pine Communities (pages 189–214)
Evan R. Larson and Kurt F. Kipfmueller
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00481.x


Rethinking Territory: Social Justice and Neoliberalism in Latin America’s Territorial Turn (pages 215–226)
Joe Bryan
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00480.x


Ethnic Entrepreneurship Studies in Geography: A Review1 (pages 227–240)
Qingfang Wang
Article first published online: 15 MAR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-8198.2012.00482.x

Geography Compass Content Alert: Volume 6, Issue 2 (February 2012)

The latest issue of Geography Compass is available on Wiley Online Library.

Click past the break to view the full table of contents. Continue reading

Replanting the Streets

By Richard Gravelle

A recent report by the woodland trust has suggested that trees can play an important role in improving the quality of life in British towns and cities.  Trees have been shown to improve air quality, reduce ambient temperatures and have a positive benefit on people’s health.

It is estimated that 80% of Britons live in urban areas.  However, only 10% have access to woodland within 500 m of their homes.  This is widely attributed not only to urban expansion, but also to reduced planting schemes.  The trust aims to remedy this by planting 20 million native trees every year.  This has been supported by the coalition government, who estimate that each tree planted in central London is worth as much as £78,000 in its benefits to the surrounding area.

The report hopes to influence local planners and promote the growth of a green infrastructure which could save the UK millions of pounds in healthcare costs and improve house prices.

BBC News – Calls to green ‘concrete jungle’.  Mark Kinver, 30th June 2010.

Woodland Trust website