9. Urban Ecologies: Where’s Nature in the City?
With Gavin Van Horn & John Thackara.
How can people living in urban settings engage with a teeming animal world – right on their doorsteps? Can we design cities from the perspective and the lifeworlds of other species? And by the way, where does the city even begin? How can animals disrupt our associations of what cities are?
Gavin Van Horn is the Executive Editor of the Center for Humans and Nature Press, and is the author of City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness and The Way of Coyote. His story teaches a potent medicine for urban alienation, by honing our awareness to species like coyotes, robins, pollinators, and degraded urban forests. We talk about everyday intimacies, wild mutual gazes, the resplendence of pigeon feathers and examples of mutual healing when people repair urban lands and make nature whole.
John Thackara, writer, curator and professor, develops design agendas for ecological restoration, urban-rural reconnection, and multi-species environments. He curated the celebrated Doors of Perception conference for 20 years, and was commissioner of the UK Social Innovation Biennial and the Urban-Rural Expo in Shanghai. John’s expertise lies in the realm of futures design and next economies, and in our chat he shares compelling examples of urban rural reconnection, such as designers experimenting with microbial lives, the viral phenomenon of weed watching, celebrity farmers in china, and placefulness as a doorway into caring.
- John’s website
- Design for Multi Species Cities
- Back to the Land Summer School
- Urban Rural Connection in China
- Gavin’s website
- The Way of the Coyote Book
- Kinship: Belonging in a World of Relations
- Greencorps of Chicago
- Chicago Wilderness
- Being Salmon, Being Human
Look out for meditations, poems, readings, and other snippets of inspiration in between episodes.
Photo Credit: Jason Klassi via Getty Images
View all episodes
Sound Journey | Music of the Waters33:25This musical journey has been produced for Lifeworlds by the vocal artist Moncaya. It is a sonic ode to the waters of the Earth and the rivers that flow, and a deep and loving conversation between two dear friends.Moncaya is a singer-songwriter and composer whose namesake derives from the mountain that rises in a vast dry plain in Northern Spain, her homeland; a mecca for the Iberian Celts and generations of healers, witches, and spiritual practioners. In this musical journey, she has woven our words with the sounds of the Rio Magdalena, a powerful estuary that flows through the state of Mexico bringing water to the entire city, and stitched it all together with her hauntingly beautiful voice and utterances. Listen to the end, where you can catch the track in its full splendor.This song is part of a wider movement – an open call for musicians around the world to create music, using water samples mainly gathered by Splice, a global library of musical resources for artists and creators. The movement is founded with the intent to give voice to water through different sonic universes made available to any musical artist, anywhere. I ask Moncaya at one point in this conversation how she as an artist can translate with integrity the experience of a whole other lifeworld – that of water itself. She chuckles, and with her characteristic clarity and warmth, responds, “You don't give voice to the waters…. You just explore with a pure heart, and whatever comes is good enough”.Moncaya was trained as an engineer and worked developing technology for conflict resolution and peace-building in countries at war, including Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Syria and Tunisia. Currently based in Mexico City, her expression flows through her creations which blend the timeless essence of folk and world music with the freshness of electronic elements, creating a powerful bridge between tradition and innovation.So my friends, my invitation is to listen to this episode quietly, with a spacious heart, and let it wash over you. LinksMoncaya’s Website Moncaya SpotifySplice Contigo TodoLinktreeContact: firstname.lastname@example.org
19. 19. Conservation Photography and Beauty Activism – with Cristina “Mitty” Mittermeier54:27Audacious, spunky, courageous, defiant, sensitive, compassionate, fierce… These are just some of the words that I feel radiating from the formidable spirit and woman that is Cristina “Mitty” Mittermeier. Hailed as one of the most influential conservation photographers of our time, this Mexican national has dedicated her entire life to protecting the world's oceans - and through her work, has inspired millions of people to do the same. Cristina was one of the first pioneers in the concept and field of conservation photography. Once told to sit down and be quiet early on in her career when she asked how photography could be used as advocacy for the world’s last wild places, Cristina now has millions of followers, who are drawn to the stunning and strategic communications of her non-profit organisation Sea Legacy (which she founded with her husband Paul Niklen). It serves as a platform for many storytellers and local communities doing critical conservation work - in that way, they are amplifiers of the world’s most far flung voices and the ocean’s precious inhabitants. With that photography, should we be pushing out pictures showing the majesty of nature? Or should conservation photography also run a whole gamut of realistic but potentially emotionally distressing content? As we discuss today, it's a fine line and a delicate balance to tread in telling it as it is, whilst infusing hope in others, AND not wearing oneself down in anger or despair as we do so.We also speak about common myths or misconceptions that exist about the ocean as well as speculate on the creation of blue economies, what justice looks like for coastal communities, and how the world might change the immense value of these blue natural capital ecosystem would be entered into the PNL of a country.Episode Website LinkShow Links:Cristina's homepageSea LegacySea Legacy “Areas of Impact” Framework for the oceans100 For the OceanKey ConservationLook out for meditations, poems, readings, and other snippets of inspiration in between episodes.Music: Electric Ethnicity by Igor Dvorkin, Duncan Pittock & Ellie Kidd
18. 18. Satellites, Data and Earth Observation: Signal from Noise – with Dan Hammer55:37How can satellite data and computation fundamentally shift how we understand our place on a changing Earth, and amongst other species? Can we use all that newfound knowledge, transparency, and intelligent data architecture to become better stewards? Allowing the earth to behold itself and its own lifeworld in a whole new way… And what are the ethical implications of having the power of such oversight? In whose hands? Today our guest is Dan Hammer, Managing Partner at Ode, a data and design agency for the environment, and prior chief data scientist at the World Resources Institute, where he co-founded Global Forest Watch, a tool that tracked and monitored global deforestation patterns. He is founder of Spaceknow, a satellite image analytics start-up, and was a senior advisor in the Obama White House, a Presidential Innovation Fellow at NASA, creator of Global Plastic Watch and Amazon Mining Watch. His work has used direct earth observation to locate every wastewater pond in rural Alabama; to watch illegal mining unfold in the Amazon; and to find every plastic waste site along rivers in Vietnam. He created the application Climate TRACE for former Vice President Al Gore, the first facility-level global inventory of greenhouse gas emissions, and much more. In this episode speak about his new endeavour which is attempting to create an open source foundation model for nature – where you can “start to query the landscape like you would Google Maps”. I ask Dan how he manages to strike a balance between high level global information layers, and local relevance, and whether is it really possible that a global model can actually help people on the ground develop a deeper intimacy and action with the lifeworlds of where they reside. Episode Website Link Show Links: Dan HammerClimate TRACECarbon Mapper - methane plumeswatch illegal mining unfold in the Amazonfind every plastic waste site along rivers in VietnamAmazon Mining WatchGlobal Plastic Watch Look out for meditations, poems, readings, and other snippets of inspiration in between episodes. Music: Electric Ethnicity by Igor Dvorkin, Duncan Pittock & Ellie Kidd
Meditation | The Cosmos in Your Food12:36A guided meditation to bring you into a state of communion and intimacy with the Earth through the daily, sacred act of eating. Many ancient traditions have their ways of giving thanks to our connection with food and the planet’s bounteous harvest. Here, I have been inspired by the Zen Buddhist lineage of Plum Village, and the tenderness and beauty of bringing in all of life through every bite.I recommend you do it as you are about to enjoy a special meal… (Audio: New Earth - Beautiful Koshi Wind Chimes Healing Spring Meditation 432hz; Image: grapevinedesigns.in)
17. 17. Tales of the Arctic Deep – with Sylvia Earle, Johan Rockström and Taylor Griffith01:55:16A special three part episode recorded onboard a Climate and Oceans expedition in the Norwegian Arctic. We’ll hear about the dark mysteries of the deepest realms of the ocean from “Her Deepness” herself, Dr. Sylvia Earle (possibly the most admired and loved oceanographer of the last century). Followed by the latest Planetary Boundaries Earth science from Johan Rockstrom, and the role of ocean storytelling and immersive art installations from Taylor Griffith. Together, their voices weave a tale of the predicament and possibility of the Arctic and high seas; how to sense the lifeworlds of all the creatures who glow and sparkle and live in the dark within the greatest unexplored part of Earth's biosphere; we learn about ocean exploration in the 21st century, the dangers of deep sea mining, and the role of discovery and art in bringing us into the pulsing heart of the planet’s watery body. I love this episode so much, and I hope you will too. Episode Website Link Show Links:Sylvia Earle biographyMission Blue and Hope SpotsDeep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER Submarine vessels)Johan RockstromPlanetary BoundariesMission Blue DocumentaryDeep Sea Mining Challenges - Oxygen ProjectTaylor Griffith artist pageCampaign Against Deep Sea MiningAnna Atkins Ocean cyanotypesPope’s new Laudato Deum Look out for meditations, poems, readings, and other snippets of inspiration in between episodes.Music: Electric Ethnicity by Igor Dvorkin, Duncan Pittock, Ellie Kidd & The Rising by Tryad CCPL
16. 16. Climate Grief, Eco-anxiety, and Loving a World in Turmoil – with Britt Wray01:10:34A necessary and beautiful episode on the emotional terrain of climate grief, loss, sadness, anxiety, and all the ways we can cope either maladaptively or adaptively to this challenging moment in time.This is an intimate conversation that makes the case for allowing ourselves to ‘feel it all’. Because from the depth of feeling comes the power of action, hope, resilience and community. If we ignore the reality of this mental health crisis, we are turning our backs on the potential that can emerge on the other side of initiation. We discuss different frameworks for processing climate anxiety - practical resources, approaches and philosophical underpinnings of a phenomenon that is sweeping the world, especially among youth populations.Dr Britt Wray is one of the world’s most esteemed and loved researchers on this topic, having published the viral newsletter and book Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis. She is Director Special Initiative of the Chair on Climate Change & Mental Health in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences of Stanford Medicine, advancing research and approaches in the field with communities facing the reality of ecological and social breakdown.Show Links:Lifeworlds Resources PageBritt’s websiteBritt’s books: Generation Dread & Rise of the NecrofaunaJoanna Macey: World as Lover, World as SelfEdwards & Buzzel: The Waking Up SyndromeBlanche Verlie: Learning to Live with Climate ChangeGood Grief NetworkElizabeth Bechard: Parenting in a Changing ClimateJo McAndrews: Supporting children in the face of climate changeMartin Shaw: We Are In The Underworld And We Haven’t Figured It Out YetClimate Psychiatry AllianceRoy Scranton: Learning to Die in the AnthropoceneMusic: Electric EthnicityPhoto: Midsummer Eve Celebration
Myth | Remembrance & Initiation of the Soul34:56An essential part of living into different lifeworlds resides in the mythic realm – the currents of poetry, mysticism and story that stream in the archetypal world below the world. Today I bring you a myth, from Darren Silver, rite of passage and vision quest guide; it is a myth that has laid dormant for many years and is finally here to be told. On the surface it’s a story of twins, of a brother and a sister, and of their initiation. There is magical surrealism here, and mythic beings, ancient and enduring laws of reciprocity, of the ways of the forest, of how to barter in ancient exchanges of the soul. There are riddles and agreements and creatures that speak and weave wisdom through grit and pain and love. The enduring message that this myth leaves me with is that initiation does not come bundled in cozy sound baths and sipping cacao on a beach — initiation is painful and tears us to our bones, and yet it is a sublime liberation, because through initiation, we manifest our gifts into the world. And as Darren says, for our gift to manifest, we have to wager our own skin. So sit back and listen to this one closely. Be present, receptive, and dignify the messages that are coming through as medicine for you, because something will strike you close. Allow yourself to be carried away by the myth. And so we begin.Credit: Photo of Stag (Flickr)
15. 15. Re-Weaving Landscapes: Wildlife Crossings & Designing for Nature as the Client01:10:41The roads on which we drive are unlikely to strike us as an exciting source of design innovation or interspecies dialogue. And yet, some of the most fascinating experiments and living laboratories are taking place around the world in how humans can build structures of hope and creativity for other species to flourish, despite having their habitats sliced in half by concrete veins. Earth is a fluid organism and needs connected landscapes like a canvas upon which to paint its life. Roads, on the other hand, are the single most destructive element in the process of habitat fragmentation (not to mention the millions of deaths due to collisions and the massive economic cost of these accidents). Over the coming 30 years, an additional 25 million km of roads will be built across the planet’s surface. So today in the show, we speak to pioneers in the world of wildlife crossings and design competition leaders who have spurred the process of globally rethinking and redesigning human structures to grapple with the concept of “wilderness” and the radical interconnectedness of nature and culture.Jeremy Guth is a trustee of the Woodcock Foundation, and an ARC founding sponsor. Nina-Marie is the Graduate Director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Toronto Metropolitan University where she leads the Ecological Design Lab, and has created a series of courses at the Harvard Graduate School of Design called Wild Ways. Episode Website Link: https://www.lifeworld.earth/episodes-blog/reweavinglandscapes Show Links:ARC websiteCrossings for Wildlife websiteBiophilic Cities NetworkEcological Design Lab.caWild Ways Harvard CourseWild Ways publicationInteractive map of wildlife crossings in the USAeon article: Reweaving the Wild(Re)Connecting Wild filmNYT wildlife crossing articleLook out for meditations, poems, readings, and other snippets of inspiration in between episodes.Music: Electric Ethnicity by Igor Dvorkin, Duncan Pittock, Ellie Kidd & The Rising by Tryad CCPL
14. 14. Musicians of the Planet: On Making Interspecies Songs – with David Rothenberg01:01:38A clarinet plugged into an underwater hydrophone, playing with liquid humpback whale songs below the surface. A huddled group of musicians under a night-time forest in Berlin, singing with nightingales. A 17-year swarm of cicadas alighting upon a sole jazz musician. These are the scenographies that David Rothenberg provokes with his interspecies music compilations, asking us, why should we only play music with other humans and not improvise along with the original musicians of the planet herself? For human music and song emerged from a world that sings, hums, beats, chirps, and human translations of these sounds have captured our imaginations from our tribal origins through to the first recordings of humpback whales that spurred anti-whaling conventions in the 70s and electronic synthesizers. Today’s episode brings us into this creative engagement with the planet, exploring how we are transformed when we open up to a world of music, beauty and art created by nature every day. So my friends, listen wider, expand your sense of music, and have David Rothenberg, interspecies musician, writer, and philosopher, show us how to become not just passive listeners but active participants in the symphony. Episode Website LinkShow Links:David’s websiteDavid Rothenberg music on Spotifyall David Rothenberg books on AmazonNYT making music with cicadasIf Nietzche were an animal bookTim D recording windSlowing down nightingale song into whale songOn making music with whalesSounding SoilsBernie KrauseDavid’s workshop in Costa Rica Look out for meditations, poems, readings, and other snippets of inspiration in between episodes. Music: Electric Ethnicity by Igor Dvorkin, Duncan Pittock & Ellie Kidd Songs: Nightingale sounds are from David, and the Monkey Chant is from Kecak from Bali (Bridge Records)