British first for Biophilic Cities Network

Conference sees Birmingham revealed as first 'biophilic' city in Britain as its Green Vision earns international recognition.

Birmingham: added to network - image: HW
Birmingham: added to network - image: HW

Birmingham has been named as Britain's first "biophilic" city at the Institute of Chartered Foresters' (ICF) Trees, People & the Built Environment II conference in the city earlier this month.

Birmingham City Council climate change and sustainability manager Nick Grayson said: "Cities are realising that they have the potential to play a part (in greening measures) themselves, without waiting for governments."

The city's Green Vision links ecosystems services, climate change adaptation, carbon reduction and green jobs and innovation through planning and other policy areas. It has mapped the provision of various indicators such as biodiversity, local climate and recreation, from which it generated an overall "challenge map", said Grayson. "It shows how we are doing. Clusters of poor health coincide with gaps in provision."

The city is also among those working with the Government to develop a 25-year "natural capital plan" for England, due out next year. "We want this for Birmingham at a city level too. It changes how funding operates," said Grayson.

"Retrofitting cities could be a massive global investment opportunity." Birmingham already has 400km of waterways that provide a blueprint for an urban route network, he pointed out.

Welcoming Birmingham's admission, biophilic cities movement co-founder Professor Tim Beatley of the University of Virginia told the conference: "We are hardwired to need nature around us. What the Japanese call 'forest bathing' has been found to reduce stress and boost the immune system. But you can't get your whole fix from two weeks' holiday."

While an analogy can be drawn with recommended daily amounts of food nutrients for good health, what constitutes a daily "serving" of nature remains a moot point, added Beatley. "I hope we can develop a 'Birmingham diet'," he said.

Biophilia Promoting health and well-being

"Biophilia" is an umbrella term for the ways in which interaction with nature promotes human health and well-being. The Biophilic Cities Network - 11 cities that "strive to foster deep connections and daily contact with the natural world" - was established at the University of Virginia in October last year.

Europe is already represented by Oslo and the Basque city Vitoria-Gasteiz, both of which are involved in projects to restore rivers as green arteries.

"There is huge potential for us to learn from other cities," said Birmingham City Council climate change and sustainability manager Nick Grayson.

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