The term Green Urbanism keeps showing up unexpectedly in newspaper articles, conference session titles, blog posts, and casual conversation. While there is an innate, intuitive sense of the meaning, green urbanism may also seem as elusive as it is evocative. Having given this topic a fair amount of thought over the past several years, I, and my colleague and collaborator Ted Bardacke, arrived at the following working definition:
green urbanism: the practice of creating communities mutually beneficial to humans and the environment
This practice builds on the seminal efforts of Olmsted, Ian Mcharg, Jane Jacobs, Anne Spirn, Michael Sorkin, and many others, often taking many shapes and directions. But the questions are strikingly similar.
How do you design a neighborhood or a city like an ecosystem? What is the right benchmark for sustainability? How do you integrate the many components of urbanism to generate the synergies essential to creating a sustainable place?
Our ability to answer these questions and to rise to the subtle but deep challenge posed by bringing together the words "green" and "urban" is a function of how we see our place in the world. By understanding that people are part and parcel of nature, and have never been external to the ecological flows of the natural world, we can become reconnected to nature, shift how we perceive our relationship to the environment, and reevaluate what we want – and what we need – from that most wondrous of human inventions, the city.