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Nov 26, 2015
by Heather Jaber
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Daniel Raven-Ellison - A National Park City is where individuals have power

Daniel Raven-Ellison, guerrilla geographer and National Geographic Emerging Explorer, talked re-wilding nature through a campaign to make London the first National Park City

“There’s things that we all love in the world,” said Daniel Raven-Ellison, guerrilla geographer and National Geographic Emerging Explorer. “We all love food, we all love music, and there’s this other thing that we all love, but we don't think about as much, which is place.”

This common love of place is what Raven-Ellison says sets the foundation for a new way of thinking about nature and urban environments. On top of his life as an explorer, he is leading an initiative to make London the world’s first National Park City. But what exactly does a National Park City look like? 

“National Park City would be a new kind of national park,” said Raven-Ellison, Fellow of the first Parks for the Planet Forum. “It would be inspired by rural national parks in the great successes that they have had, but made appropriate for an entire urban environment.”

To do this, we need to remember that habitat is not only linked to rural parts of the world, said the explorer who taught geography for seven years. 

“It’s taking people on a learning journey of having this moment of realization that an urban habitat, an urban environment, an urban landscape can be as inspirational, as ecologically diverse, as important as a rural landscape,” he said.

Particularly in the case of nature conservation, it can be difficult to convert the knowledge that practitioners and academics have to action among the wider public. 

“Intellectually, we’re just in this really fascinating place where lots of people are trying to grapple with this issue, and that’s very engaging, but its a challenge,” he said. “But that’s why we’re here. We’re here because it’s a challenge.”

To combat these challenges, Raven-Ellison points out that changes at very basic, foundational levels can have great impact. With 3.8 million gardens in London covering 24% of the city, this means that all of these households have the potential to “re-wild and re-engage” with nature in their own gardens. 

“And because they have that ownership, it means they can really create positive change.” Agency of this kind is key for this initiative, said Raven-Ellison. 

While the campaign might sound revolutionary at first, Raven-Ellison points out that it doesn’t require wide-scale reform or massive re-planning. It is rather something that can happen in many more concentrated and organic ways.

“The unique point about this proposition for London National Park City, is it’s where individual people have city. It’s what individual people can do. So it’s not big — it’s small, but lots of small added together.”

To hear the full interview, listen to the clip below:


The Salzburg Global program Nature, Health and a New Urban Generation is part of the Parks for the Planet Forum. The list of our partners for Session 557 can be found here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/557