It’s Important to Make Space for Wildlife In Our Growing Cities

Sourced from Stantec

Half the global population lives in urban areas. By all projections, this migration will only continue. Mankind has always expressed dominion over the landscape, and the imbalance at which we tread has increased exponentially since the Industrial Revolution to the point at which—particularly in the first world—it’s hard to discern if truly wild places still exist.

As the schism between the developed world and nature grows, society must consider the unintended consequences on wildlife as we urbanize. Can humankind and nature coexist? We need to answer these questions:

  • Is it “right” to destroy natural habitat, replacing it with our own without room for “them”?
  • As a species who “owns” land, do we also “own” the wildlife existing on that land. Furthermore, to what do we “owe” them, and can this be translated into “value”?
  • Can (and should) the built environment accommodate space where nature and man can thrive symbiotically, rather than our current approach of conservation, which is typically “away” from development?

A moment of epiphany

I was inspired to write this piece on a recent walk home. I live in Boston’s Seaport, an up-and-coming neighborhood rising on former industrial land within an active seaport. A decade ago, it was an expanse of asphalt littered with industrial buildings. Now, it’s booming with new mixed-use commercial, residential, and institutional buildings close to both downtown and Boston Harbor.

As I crossed the partially landscaped D Street Bridge, to my surprise, I found a family of rabbits living there. I paused to notice them, and—careful to not scare them away—I wondered how anything could survive such a brutal environment, made no less inviting on a frigid sub-zero evening? How did they get here, surrounded by highways with no obvious pathway? As they played, I gained respect for these resilient creatures and see it as my own bit of stewardship in highlighting their plight to make sure they stay in the Seaport and are not displaced—or worse—by development.

How to restore natural balance?

Despite great odds, nature seeks balance relentlessly. It thrives in the oddest places. This realization and my stewardship of the Seaport rabbits made me question their survival in the face of impending development. I want to find a way to keep them there and thriving, not at the expense of development, but by using development as the mechanism by which man and wildlife can coexist in harmony.

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