Sustainable Cities Collective has re-launched as Smart Cities Dive! Click here to learn more!

On Being an Urban Environmentalist


Earlier this week, I was invited to participate in a career panel on being an "urban environmentalist" for a university class. While it was flattering to be given this title, I hadn't really considered how I fit the definition, or even how I got to this place in my career.

As I was thinking of what I would talk about, I soon realized that my passion for cities and nature developed organically - no pun intended - as a result of my experiences in life so far.

I didn't even start my career in urban issues. After being editor of my high school newspaper, I realized I loved to write so I pursued a a degree in communications. When I graduated, my first communications job was for a Canadian government funding agency called Western Economic Diversification. The department worked on a lot of urban revitalization and policy projects, particularly in Vancouver's inner city, known as the Downtown Eastside. As a result I did a lot of media relations and writing on these issues that inspired me to learn more, so I pursued a Masters in Urban Studies at SFU.

When I finished, I had a new communications position with another government department, but I wanted to combine my love of writing and communications with my love of urban issues, so I launched my blog, This City Life.

A few years into starting my blog, I got sick with a viral infection that left me with crippling fatigue and dizziness for over a year and that is when I really became an urban environmentalist.

At the time, I could barely walk a block, so I forced to slow down and pay attention to my surroundings. That is when I started to really notice my natural environment. I was always looking at trees, listening to birds singing, feeling the air on my face - this sounds overly sentimental in retrospect - but in all seriousness, nature is was what helped me ultimately heal.

At that point, I realized how important and necessary nature is to city life. Citizens cannot thrive without easy, walkable access to parks, trees and other forms of green space.

Since then I have used my blog to write about the benefits of nature in cities, especially to showcase Vancouver's success stories to a global audience.

Most recently, I was selected by The Guardian and UN Habitat to participate in their 2014 World Cities Day Challenge.The Challenge involved selecting my cities best idea that could be duplicated in other cities, so I chose Metro Vancouver's green zone. The Green Zone is designated area that protect's the region's green space while also containing urban growth.

Although, the idea didn't win, I wanted to showcase how Metro Vancouver has preserved it's natural environment in hopes that other cities around the world might be inspired to do the same.

I continue to use my blog as a platform to promote nature in city life and that is why I am an urban environmentalist.

You can read my previous posts on the subject of nature in cities here.