Radiolab’s excellent episode “From Tree to Shining Tree” about the surprising and unusual ways in which trees and forests are interconnected, brought to mind the expected thoughts about how much we all depend on one another - not just for survival, but for joy, hope, and love. But what we didn't expect to hear was how much these green giants rely so much on other species such as the nearly invisible underground networks of fungi that spend their days mining minerals and exchange nutrients from tree to tree. It got us thinking about how much we have learned and how much we have yet to learn about the natural world around us. What opportunities abound? How can our cities work together with the world around them instead of in opposition?
It was with these thoughts flowing through our minds that we came across Justin Nobel’s excellent reconsideration of John Muir. Noble notes “Muir’s sacred Yosemite was not a garden tended by God, as he wrote so passionately about, it was a garden tended by Native people” through their practice of intentionally burning the forest to avoid larger fires. It was inconceivable to Muir (and understandably so) that human intervention with nature could produce anything close to as beautiful as nature itself could produce. We appreciated the reminder that humans are indeed a part of their ecosystem, but posses the ability to shape our relationship with and build stronger ties between our cities and nature. Can cities become more intertwined with their surroundings in a mutually beneficial way?