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As several cities buckle under the weight of pollution and depleting resources, London has launched itself as the world’s first ‘National Park City’ that aims to make life ‘greener, healthier and wilder’ for residents. A seven-point charter by the National Park City Foundation (NPCF), an independent charity, has been embraced by city authorities, and it seeks to push citizens toward building a better relationship with London’s green spaces and urban wildlife. This is to be carried out via activities, events, capacity building, awareness programs and responsible consumption strategies. The charter is also likely to guide urban planning, as it shares London mayor Sadiq Khan’s vision “to make 50% of London physically green by 2050.”
Individuals, groups and organisations, and a majority of local wards have supported the programme, which kicked off with a green festival this July. “We want more bird song, ultimate frisbee, hill-rolling, tree climbing...volunteering, sharing, outdoor play, kayaking...outdoor learning, ball games, outdoor art and hilltop dancing in the city,” says the official website.
The NPCF has abandoned the usual top-down approach and seeks to involve everyday people into a support network. The kinds of activities people can pitch into is quite vast, but in a nutshell, a national park city (NPC) will ‘promote...understanding and enjoyment of...special qualities by the public”, “conserve and enhance their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage”, and “seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities”. The NPC website caters to all walks of life—you can sign up as a member, learn how to become a citizen scientist, explore wildlife sites (the city hosts over 15,000 species), learn to make your home more animal-friendly, volunteer your expertise, as well as discover new ways to enjoy London’s parks, woodlands, farms and waterways.
Given the diverse support across town, new projects are popping up often. A lot of these are development ideas that could be globally implemented. The NPCF has thus launched a 64-page ‘Maker Guide’ that’s brimming with examples of how communities are taking on-ground action to create and maintain a National Park City. For the ideas and resources they couldn’t fit into the main paper, there’s a supplement here.
The English countryside is regarded as one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. But its cities haven’t always fared that well. London was once known as ‘The Big Smoke’, as the Industrial Revolution had introduced disastrous levels of pea soup fog into the atmosphere. Residents and local politicians are keen to integrate nature back into their life, but we’re curious to see how well the model could translate across world cities. Newcastle upon Tyne and Glasgow are other UK locations that have now launched campaigns to become an NPC after London, and the NPCF plans to name at least 25 new National Park Cities across the globe by 2025.
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