For city-dwellers, the closest ‘true wilderness’ to be found is usually the weeds sprouting in abandoned lots. Snow-capped, postcard nature might be beautiful but is often inaccessible. The Nature Conservancy, a US-based charity that buys up land to stop development, is debating re-focusing its conservation ethic on the concrete jungle. With 50% of the human population now living in cities, the Conservancy is worried that a wilderness-focused message is loosing its relevance for urbanites.
Bill Ulfelder, the director of the Nature Conservancy in New York, sees the 22,000 acres of roof in the city as a vast potential habitat. “There’s a lot of talk about rooftop gardens and storm-water catchment,” Ulfelder says, “But this is also a great opportunity to put habitat back in the city. Let’s think about habitat for pollinators and birds.” A concentrated effort to bring wild organisms back into an urban environment may mean that we can soon welcome birds more exotic than the standard pigeons, sparrows, and redtail hawks. Let’s hope our kids still remember the word for ‘heron’ or ‘magpie’.