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Architecture

Some wild life

An engagement with nature enhances people’s emotional attachment to places according to a recent article by researchers into sustainable cities, Timothy Beatley and Peter Newman.

Heron in water, sandbar, boat

They maintain that “Urban environments that are greener, more nature-full, will attract greater interest by residents and help to strengthen emotional bonds to place and community, in turn increasing urban resilience” (3335).

They refer to the health benefits of natural environments within or close to cities. People will get out more, walk further and are healthier. They cite evidence that stress and fatigue are reduced, and there’s a positive effect on mood. After walking in natural environments, “participants showed marked decreases in depression, anger, tension, confusion and fatigue and increases in vigor” (3337).

The effect also applies to environments in which animal life is present. “Viewing birds (and listening to their calls) and watching other wildlife, at once provides mental and emotional connections, stress reduction and other biophysical benefits.”

Fauna, particularly bird life, “re-enchant,” contribute to a “distinctive sense of place,” and reduce stress (3338). Such connections with nature arouse curiosity and a sense of wonder (3340).

Here are some photographs taken in Australia to illustrate the richness and variety of the urban and peri urban wildlife in one country at least.

Some fauna

Bird with yellow flap around its beak Cockatoo on a rock with sea in background Cockatoos in a eucalyptus tree Brown duck in water Pink and grey Galahs on power cablesKoala in a tree almost obscured by gum leaves Two Kookaburras in a tree Red and blue Lorakeet in a tree Lyrebird almost obscured by vegetation Black and white Magpie walking Possum in a tree at night, barely visible Standing in long grass Three kangaroos grazing and lying on a lawn Three black coloured birds with white beaks walking on grass Coot in waterSign says Endangered BristlebirdBlank

Obstacles

The authors assert that there are of course obstacles to this communion with nature, such as busy schedules, overwork, competition from indoor activities and car dependency (3342).

In a park

Computers come in for a bit of a bashing: “The time spent by children on electronic media has actually increased in recent years, boding ill for the kinds of contact with the natural world that will foster a lifelong love of and comfort and wonder provided by nature, as well as the physical exercise and activity that outside play generates” (3337).

It’s easy to think that, but I don’t know how supported it is by evidence. In any case, these photographs of wildlife were taken by a digital camera and a smartphone, and processed, stored and distributed with the aid of digital media. I also identified the animals by drawing on my own knowledge, much gained from watching numerous nature programmes on television, but also looking up images and descriptions on a web search engine. I supplemented my knowledge with smartphone web searches while moving about. There’s an argument to be made that our love of animals is already heavily mediated by digital technologies.

Seven tourists photographing a red parrot

Notes

  • Also see Why cartoons have animals, Soft fascination.
  • The animals in the photographs above are identified via rollover captions. These may not be visible on tablet computers: Probably White-faced Heron, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, near Sydney; Masked Lapwing, Mossman, Sydney; Sulphur crested cockatoo at South Head, Sydney Harbour; Cockatoos, Montsalvat, near Melbourne; Probably a Grey Teal duck, Ruffey Lake Park, Templestow, Melbourne; Galahs, Cootamundra, NSW; Koala, Taronga Zoo, Sydney; Kookaburras, Montsalvat, near Melbourne; Rainbow Lorikeet, Mossman, Sydney; Lyrebird, Blue Mountains, NSW; Magpie, Mossman, Sydney; Probably a Bushtail Possum, Canberra; Kangaroo, somewhere in NSW; Kangaroos in campsite, somewhere in NSW; Juvenile Eurasian Coots, Ruffey Lake Park, Templestow, near Melbourne; Eurasian Coot, Ruffey Lake Park, Templestow, near Melbourne; Road sign, Jervis Bay, NSW; Seagulls and man on phone, Sydney; Parrot, Taronga Zoo, Sydney.
  • Note that the cited article does not mention animals for food, hunting sports, riding, contest, or animals as pets, pests, nuisance, or vermin, or the predatory nature of animals. People can also be frightened and disturbed by animals. Not all animals are admired. Are fauna only to be encouraged and admired if they support human health and welfare?
  • In an interesting article about the history of tourism in the Blue Mountains, Nicole Porter and Catherin Bull state: “park narratives find their expression across many representational media from amateur photography to commercial film and online advertising, and as technologies evolve so too can the message and meanings they transmit. Historically, a diverse range of meanings have been associated with nature, a diversity matched by the numerous media that have been used to give expression to them. Park managers can actively utilize a wide range of technologies to engage with the wider public. Just as technologies, such as GPS, have allowed diverse and complex physical resources to be managed differently, so too should current and future technologies such as the Internet be used to manage and facilitate a diversity of park narratives” (p.181). [Note added 20 June 2014]
  • Listen to the sound of bellbirds (against other chirping) in the Blue Mountains, NSW, recorded on 13 July 2013 in the valley beneath the Three Sisters.
  • Flocks of lorikeets in the trees at dusk, Victoria Avenue, Chatswood, Sydney, 25 July, 2013. 

Reference

  • Beatley, Timothy, and Peter Newman. 2013. Biophilic cities are sustainable, resilient cities. Sustainability, (5)3328-3345.
  • Porter, Nicole, and Catherin Bull. 2013. Conceptualizing, representing, and designing nature: Cultural constructions of the Blue Mountains, Australia. In E. Carr, S. Eyring, and R. Guy Wilson (eds.), Public Nature: Scenery, History, and Park Design: 170-182. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press.

About Richard Coyne

The cultural, social and spatial implications of computers and pervasive digital media spark my interest ... enjoy architecture, writing, designing, philosophy, coding and media mashups.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Some wild life

  1. Fascinating study, RIchard; thank you for sharing it. “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Defiecit Disorder” by Richard Louv is a personal take on the same theme. We are fortunate here to have a beautiful city and county park system that is used extensively by city and suburban residents. In some areas, white tailed deer wander through the suburban streets at will, much to the chagrin of gardeners, but in general, people love to see wildlife both in their neighborhoods and when they go to the parks.

    Posted by composerinthegarden | August 12, 2013, 9:50 pm

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