Why we need to bring nature back into our cities

Published on by Green Initiatives

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The cities we live in and call home are an indispensable part of our lives and define our identities. The fast-paced life that comes with cities leaves us so engrossed in our daily commutes and jobs, that quite often we forget to stop, take a deep breath, and simply pay attention to people and nature around us.

China’s urbanization rate has already crossed 60% and is expected to continue to rise rapidly over the next decade. This only means more people leaving the countryside to move to fast-paced cities, leading to a greater disconnect with our natural environment and surroundings. Further, an increase in smartphone use has only led to people being more disconnected from each other – both physically and mentally.

Commercial buildings, including shopping centers, public spaces, F&B joints, etc form a big part of this new urban landscape. One can find new retail centers popping up all around the city.

What is "Nature in the City" ?

In December 2020, Green Initiatives partnered with leading property developer - Kerry Properties to launch a two-month campaign ‘Nature in the City’, a series of engaging, insightful, purpose-driven, and charity-focused events at Jingan Kerry Center. Through this event series, we hope to bring nature back into the limelight and into peoples’ lives, by focusing on food, sound, and wellbeing in nature.

Apart from supporting this campaign, Kerry Properties will make charitable donations to various non-profit organizations around China (RenDe Foundation, NPI Foundation, and Beijing Green Sunshine) to support projects related to research, activities, and workshops related to environmental protection and preservation of our natural resources.

photo credit: https://www.yeeyi.com/news/index.php?app=home&act=article&aid=835093

"Nature in the City" – December Community Events Recap

The campaign kicked-off on 2nd December with the screening of ‘The Biggest Little Farm’ a film based on the story of a couple who left the city to  build one of the most diverse farms of its kind, in complete coexistence with nature. The activity was followed up with a visit to ‘The Peace Place’, an actual rooftop farm right in the middle of our city run by Riki Ding, a passionate nature lover.

Next up was a book reading event ‘Irresistible - The Rise of Addictive Technology’, to discuss the rise of behavioral addiction, and explore why so many of today's digital products are irresistible to us city dwellers. The series further continued with charity music concerts ‘When Mother Nature Calls’ and ‘Inside The Highlands’ - a symphony of beautiful music and deep emotional experiences, where people reconnected with the sounds of nature and supported different charitable organizations.

Among other partner events was the screening of ‘A Life On Our Planet’ a film by legendary natural historian Sir David Attenborough, who reflects and reveals how together we can address the biggest challenges our planet is facing.  The campaign was also proud to partner with the ‘World Water Source Summit’, a conference targeted at experts and professionals in the water sector, to explore the possibilities and solutions for efficiently using scarce water resources, one of the most integral elements of nature.

A big focus of the ‘Nature in the City’ campaign was to support civil society organizations. Kerry Properties aimed to raise awareness on China’s charity space and support smaller NGO’s through this initiative. ‘The State of Philanthropy in China’, an event organized to achieve the above goal, invited social entrepreneurs, corporate lawyers, and philanthropy experts to share their views on how China is achieving their SDG goals and what are the opportunities and challenges of the non-profit sector.

The last event in December, ‘Living the Life of Our Dreams’, was an inspirational talk by Wang Jia, a fighting survivor of a car accident, founder of Yushu Home of Spinal Cord Injuries and an enthusiastic wheelchair basketball player. He shared his personal story and how he successfully recovered and transformed his life.

"Nature in the City" – January Community Events Recap

After a short break over the New Year, the campaign kicked off 2021 with a ’Mind and Body Flow Yoga’ session. The main focus of the session was movement and reconnecting with one’s inner self. Movement and stillness perfectly coexist in nature and also in human beings. Flowing through different poses, participants created a space inside their mind to feel the beauty of moving and being.

Food from nature being a big focus of the campaign, Green Initiatives screened ‘Atlantic’ a film that sheds light on fisheries and ocean resources to help city dwellers reconnect with their food sources and make better informed choices. To wrap up the discussion, Dhriti Raj - a Post-Doctoral research fellow at East China Normal University (ECNU) shared his research on the coastal fishing industry in China and the impact of fish farms on the local ecosystem. He used interactive maps and graphics to show the changes to the landscape over time.

The most awaited event of the series, the ‘Green Initiatives Annual Gathering + Social Impact Mixer’ was held on the 15th of January, where over a 180 people gathered at the beautiful Kinetic Space in Jingan Kerry Center. The evening featured Celtic music and traditional French style dancing (‘’Fest Noz’’), delicious plant-based foods and drinks, a motivational talk by life coach Gerald Renger, and lots of interesting connections in the community. Attendees had a chance to reconnect and rejuvenate their senses with foods, sounds and wellbeing from nature.

Other partner events for January included the screening of ‘In Search of Greatness’, a motivational film that explores the role of creativity in the careers of the world's greatest athletes, both historical and contemporary. Continuing with the theme of wellbeing and motivation, two book reading sessions ‘Coaching for Performance’ and ‘The Culture Map’ was held for the community to support participants discover their true potential and collaborate better with their peers from different parts of the world.

The last motivational talk of the series ‘Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace’ was a lunch-n-learn session that encouraged people to think about being more engaged and connected in their work environments. Certified Organizational Coach, Klaus Schmitt, engaged the participants with different group exercises to enable them to be both socially conscious as well as environmentally more aware. Participants enjoyed a wholesome plant-based Mexican lunch sponsored by Z-Rou meat.

The last event of the ‘Nature in the City’ campaign was the screening of ‘Gurrumul: The Life of An Aboriginal Musician’, an evening to celebrate music and sounds from nature. Blind from birth, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu was one of the most important and acclaimed voices to ever come out of Australia. His songs inspired millions from around the world, as he brought his listeners closer to the music from his traditional Yolngu community.

A big thank you to all our partners, supporters and attendees who made this campaign successful. Special thanks to Kerry Properties for providing the venue to host these engaging events. Over the course of 2 months, Green Initiatives organized 9 core events in JKC and nearly 15 partner events around the city that were attended by nearly 800 people. More details about this campaign can be found here.

We were able to demonstrate that real impact starts with the right intention and having the relevant knowledge – for which having a favorable physical (built) environment is necessary. The “Nature in the City” campaign allowed us to raise much needed awareness and a great platform in a central, downtown location, to bring people to share and learn more about social and environmental challenges in a fun, collaborative, and community-driven manner.