Author: Gejsi Rada

Connection to Nature is an important theme that needs to be prevalent within in a good city. This is an important aspect for the community and the perception of the city. Cities already have a negative connotation to them; given all of the noise and pollution they create, along with the idea that the area was once green and filled with life and nature.

In East Lansing, we have the beauty of the Red Cedar River and the surrounding ecological environment that is made possible through the vast amount of trees that grow beside it. I view East Lansing and Michigan State’s usage of the environmental gift they have been afforded, and note they way they have designed their campus in a way that integrates people in the community to pass directly through the natural resources present in the city. Students have the luxury of attending class in a setting that in whichever direction they look, they view a characteristic that highlights a natural connection. Furthermore, Michigan State has made more improvements to this aspect with the addition of bicycle paths alongside the river, and benches in quiet areas surrounded by trees, squirrels, and the River.

Extensive research can be found that demonstrates the positive influence on health and well being that nature can create. Having a good balance of getting enough contact with nature has shown increased levels of concentration, overall reduced stress levels, and a positive correlation in the prevention of diseases and disorders, whether being physical or mental. This aspect is critical for healthy and sustainable communities, for within cities a natural area helps to restore the necessary biodiversity that we humans, from a biological perspective, require to live healthy efficient lives. Though many of us have transformed into urbanized city-dwellers, the connection to nature that was vital to our survival in primitive times still belongs within us, and in a good city, it can be found.

Good cities are ones that have a powerful connection to nature. They include plentiful parks for people to play, engage, and interact. The streets are lined with trees, flowers, plants, and with that comes the plethora of animals and critters that are made possible through these additions. The area creates a habitat for creatures that were once pushed out by human development, to return and coexist harmoniously amongst us.

My best personal experience with a city that boasts an excellent connection to nature came from my visit to Rio de Janeiro. A city literally built within a jungle landscape, bordered by the ocean and in possession of unlimited natural resources, was also at one point close to losing its connection with nature. Its population too consumed with multiple aspects of human life that distracted them from the destruction they were causing to their home. Rio is a great city. It has mountains with beautiful forests, amazing exotic wildlife, and some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. Only through community involvement and a bit of government intervention, they were able to preserve this.

The case study involving Rio was chosen because of the importance of the Carioca River that runs through parts of the city, and through Flamengo Park, one of the city’s landmarks and its similarity to the importance of the Red Cedar to East Lansing. However, unlike in EL, the Carioca River is covered in many parts of the city with infrastructure, which significantly minimizes its importance and hinders its effect. East Lansing must do the contrary by utilizing the River even more than Michigan State, rather than letting poor city planning diminish its importance. This case study highlights how even a city with a multitude of connections to nature, can almost let its importance slip away, and ruin what makes it a good city.

An example of this principle at work: Putting Nature Back in the Natural Beauty of Rio de Janeiro