A former geography teacher by the name of Daniel Raven-Ellison proposed the idea for the City of Greater London to embrace a new ideology based around preserving the environment. Now an official crowdfunded environmental bid, which will be launched in 2019, will campaign for London to become the world’s first ‘National Park City’. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, apparently backs the effort.
Green and Pleasant Land
Daniel Raven-Ellison wrote in The Guardian in 2014: “The statutory purpose of national park status is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area” and “promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the park by the public.” He hoped that applying these ideas to London could “radically change how we see, think about, design, manage and experience the city.”
London is 47% green space, with 3000 parks, 1600 sites of importance for nature conservation, four National Nature Reserves and 3.8 million gardens. National parks are usually found in countryside areas in the UK. However, protecting London as if it were an official national park may be a way of reducing childhood obesity, as football pitches and park playgrounds would be better maintained and not built on. Official protection of habitats in public parks and allotments would also help to conserve 13,000 species of birds and small animals.
London will be granted the title “City of Greater London National Park” if it can carry out plans set out to turn at least 4% of its non-green land into grass and gardens, including protecting existing greenery. There are plans for the new green land be used as “rain gardens” to prevent flooding, fields for playing sports or habitats tailored to the needs of birdlife. The natural beauty of London can then be passed onto future generations, despite global uncertainty over environmental matters.
Cleaning up the City
London’s existing policy regarding pollution would need to be altered, however. £3.7 billion is currently being spent on cleaning the streets of London and its air exceeds the legal requirements set by the EU for nitrogen dioxide from car exhausts. However, the eventual phasing out of diesel cars in favour of environmentally friendly battery-powered vehicles has long been planned even by Conservative governments. Today we are also seeing efforts to reach zero plastic waste, as a way to reduce landfill pollution from non-biodegradable materials.
It might seem unusual for a city to be granted national park status, which is normally only given to wild and green land miles outside of the city – but transforming how people see the city, if only psychologically, could be a positive step towards ultimately mitigating the long-term impacts of climate change.
Other capital cities around the world could well follow London in becoming a registered National Park. The National Park City Foundation aims to take London’s utopic vision around the world to other major cities. A Universal Charter of cities involved will be published in July 2019.