I am in Temple University’s Green vs. Gray: Improving and Sustaining Urban Ecosystems, and since taking this course I’ve become more aware of my environment (I currently reside in Philadelphia while studying as an undergraduate); I’ve learned about and have become conscious of the impact my surroundings have on me — how the campus and its markets provide my choice of food, how even technology shapes the air I breathe in as I roam the city streets — and of the effects I have on my temporary environment. I can say that after only a few weeks into this course, I have already formed a clearer outline or skewed sketch of the type of adult life I want to lead: one that is more sustainable and allows me to give back to my environment, namely the places that seem to me to need help the most — cities.
I’ve been starting to think more about the smell floating up from city grates, the empty Arizona bottles and balled up napkins rolling across sidewalks like urban tumbleweeds… Just two weekends ago I looked across Love Park at Your Move (the Board Game Art Park) and wondered how much less cold and stiff it would be, especially at night, with more green. The art piece was meant to look like a giant game board but the space seemed so concrete, wasted and barren. When I came to Temple my freshman year, campus seemed like a chic city school with pockets of delicious flora but after our class actually examined and evaluated the school’s efforts to incorporate plant life into its infrastructure, I realized I should have been a little disappointed. I also began to think about the impact Temple has had over the decades on the surrounding communities (the spaces they are left with, the limited choices they have) — it hasn’t been a very positive one.
With the Urban Greening Stewardship Project I want to feed into the system that is the part of the city pushing to grow back, become sustainable, and extend its branches upward — the part of Philadelphia that wants to see its parks and streets a greener, safer place for humans, plants, and animals, and its people conscious of the ways in which they can help the city get ready for a greener future.
My Urban Greening Stewardship Project Design
- INTELLECTUAL: Learn how to grow (and how to kill!) plant life — learn how to handle planting trees, shrubs, flowers; become an educated gardener
- TASK: Plant for harvest and for beautification — plant something that goes back into the community as food, and as tools in building up the environment
- PERSONAL: Learn the benefits of changing my diet — vegetarian, vegan; how does this help or harm the environment, learn its impacts and why these types of diets are encouraged
- PERSONAL: Get acquainted with urban greening — incorporate weekly sustainable and green activities and continue to act and implement my green knowledge throughout life
- TASK/PERSONAL INTEREST: Find out what Philadelphia restaurants/shops, activist groups and/or locals have to say about Philadelphia’s environment; discover their opinions and what changes they want to see ecology-wise
I want to accomplish these goals by getting involved in local events and reaching out to others who also have greening goals in mind, and build groups and businesses on these goals. I plan to detail events I attend (PHS Fall Festival 9/20, CollegeFest 9/27, and any other large-impact events) and analyze their environmental impacts and/or efforts. I also intend to become more active in Bike Temple and plan to (hopefully!) interview Blake Larson, Bike Temple’s Coordinator, to pick his brain regarding the group’s impact and the sustainability of biking in cities. I hope to participate in Bike Temple’s Halloween Bike Ride to highlight the use of bikes by students and locals (on 10/25). I want to participate in a community/campus clean-up with Net Impact! (on 9/28), and a planting at Solid Rock Orchard (on 9/27), POP’s newest orchard. I will plant at the Fairmount Horticultural Center Orchard (on 10/11), and research or interview Hip City Veg, Blackbird Pizzeria and Green Eggs Cafe. I would also like to draw in ideas from Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and relate them to what is happening today in Philadelphia (and I hope to question Alex Epstein about the effects of urban greening on crime and the local community).
- The beautification of neighborhoods — the addition of shrubs, trees, and crops — or even the beautification of certain areas of a city correlate with the area’s crime status, community relationships, and overall happiness over time.
- The creation of urban farms — rooftop or otherwise — contribute substantially and provide an output of not only food but a sufficient amount of knowledge that encourages locals to take environmental action.
- The involvement of local volunteers rather than foreign bodies or groups made of solely designated organization leaders builds a larger sense of community and creates an area that better sustains the implemented urban green infrastructure assigned to the place.
- Learning more about urban ecology and gardening will aid in my exploration of vegetarianism and encourage me to pursue a vegetarian diet and more environmentally-aware lifestyle; simply changing my diet without learning its benefits on my body and the environment will cause the diet to be unsuccessful and futile.
- The layout of cities’ green spaces greatly impacts the type of city it continues to become; green infrastructure can make or break a city and its success (compare The Death and Life of Great American Cities).