Most modern Pagans live in urban areas. How well are those areas suited for Pagan practices?
We are interested in how people come together to leave a legacy on the urban landscape that expresses the social, cultural and sacred meaning of a place. In my past work, in places that are often underserved by green or open spaces, I’ve found that it’s usually the process of coming together as a community that makes a place sacred, not simply the existence of green space. If green space alone was all we needed to create healthy and vibrant human communities, then we would find the greenest places in the world home to the healthiest populations. It’s not enough just to surround yourself with good design and green, it’s also what we bring to those spaces as a community through engagement, stewardship, education, programming, and more.
In this project in particular, we’re looking at the role of green space and urban nature in the aftermath of an extreme or acute disturbance. We’re lucky in both cases to have been there from the beginning and really understand the process, and to be able to document the process of how groups come together whether in their official capacity as emergency responders or government representatives – or as individual volunteers or members of neighborhood groups. The way in which these folks join together to take on not only the relief tasks that need to be done, but how they innovate, adapt and create new ideas for making a place better is what I find to be quite profound.
* And, speaking of urban green spaces, here’s another brilliant idea:
North Brooklyn Farms is a pop-up oasis of kale, tomatoes, and eggplants growing in a former parking lot near the Williamsburg Bridge in the shadow of a defunct Domino Sugar factory. Built on pallets, the raised beds can be lifted and moved to a new location if the property owners develop the 8,000-square-foot lot.
Knowing the garden’s site could be developed next year, the farm’s founders, Ryan Watson and Henry Sweets, came up with the plan for a pop-up edible garden.
Until last spring, the farm was just another unsightly wasteland in a post-industrial neighborhood particularly devoid of green space. But then the owner of the lot, Two Trees Management, a New York City development company, offered to let it be used…temporarily.
. . .
To make money to keep the farm going, Ryan and Henry are holding special farm-to-table dinners cooked on site by a chef who creates a menu based on the available crops. Three days a week they run a pick-your-own farm stand and help customers choose and harvest vegetables.
This is almost as ingenious as the “greehouses on grocery store roofs” idea.
In 1999, officials in Vienna, Austria, asked residents of the city’s ninth district how often and why they used public transportation. “Most of the men filled out the questionnaire in less than five minutes,” says Ursula Bauer, one of the city administrators tasked with carrying out the survey. “But the women couldn’t stop writing.”
The majority of men reported using either a car or public transit twice a day — to go to work in the morning and come home at night. Women, on the other hand, used the city’s network of sidewalks, bus routes, subway lines and streetcars more frequently and for a myriad reasons.
“The women had a much more varied pattern of movement,” Bauer recalls. “They were writing things like, ‘I take my kids to the doctor some mornings, then bring them to school before I go to work. Later, I help my mother buy groceries and bring my kids home on the metro.’”
Women used public transit more often and made more trips on foot than men. They were also more likely to split their time between work and family commitments like taking care of children and elderly parents. Recognizing this, city planners drafted a plan to improve pedestrian mobility and access to public transit.
Additional lighting was added to make walking at night safer for women. Sidewalks were widened so pedestrians could navigate narrow streets. And a massive staircase with a ramp running through the middle was installed near a major intersection to make crossing easier for people with strollers and individuals using a walker or a wheelchair.
Obviously, the world is changing and there are, thankfully, more men who are also involved in child-care, family matters, etc. These changes will likely improve their lives, as well.
Most interesting to me, though, was what happened with boys and girls:
[A] study, which took place from 1996 to 1997, showed that after the age of nine, the number of girls in public parks dropped off dramatically, while the number of boys held steady. Researchers found that girls were less assertive than boys. If boys and girls would up in competition for park space, the boys were more likely to win out.
City planners wanted to see if they could reverse this trend by changing the parks themselves. In 1999, the city began a redesign of two parks in Vienna’s fifth district. Footpaths were added to make the parks more accessible and volleyball and badminton courts were installed to allow for a wider variety of activities. Landscaping was also used to subdivide large, open areas into semi-enclosed pockets of park space. Almost immediately, city officials noticed a change. Different groups of people — girls and boys — began to use the parks without any one group overrunning the other.