Did you know that more than half of the world’s 7.3 billion people live in cities? In the United States, that figure rises to more than 80 percent! In our lifetimes, more than two-thirds of humanity will live in cities.
"We need to be paying close attention the urban space for a number of reasons," says Stacie Beute, Conservation Alliance Program Director. “From where we sit in our offices and homes, it's much harder to connect that the success of our day-to-day lives, our survival really, depends on nature. Clean air, water, food and fuel, you name it," says Beute, "it comes from nature."
But research suggests that as we urbanize, we become increasingly disconnected from nature. Pair this disconnect with another reality-- as we concentrate ourselves into cities, we concentrate our wealth, political power, decision-making and media influence.
"This is the crux of the urban conservation imperative," says Beute. "We know that that when people do not feel connected to nature, they are less likely to act to conserve it. We've got nearly all our eggs in this urban basket. Our money, power, influence-- it's all tied up with people who are becoming more and more disconnected with nature. It will be urban people that decide the fate of nature conservation.”
The Garden has been actively conserving urban nature since 1939. To increase the reach of our urban conservation efforts, the Garden launched the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance (CAZCA) partnership in 2012 to focus on engaging communities in the conservation and restoration of parks and preserves around the Valley.
“The Garden recognized that protecting urban areas beyond our walls would be essential for conservation and a means for connecting people with the wonders of the natural world,” says Beute. “The Garden has been a trail blazer in urban conservation. When we decided to extend our conservation work into our regional parks and preserves, we stepped hard into that urban conservation space.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently recognized the work the Garden has done in urban conservation and appointed Beute to the World Commission for Protected Areas, Urban Conservation Strategies Specialist Group. As one of 100 people in this group, Beute will have the opportunity to play a significant role in global urban conservation efforts.
Everyone can participate in urban conservation. Here are some ways you can have an impact:
- Follow the rules at your parks and preserves - Don’t go off the trail or release animals into natural areas, be respectful of the land and enjoy it responsibly.
- Advocate for the preserves – Lend your voice to the parks board or city council meeting to advocate for parks and preserves. You'd be amazed at how much your voice in this space matters!
- Plant native plants and reduce water usage – Whether in your yard, or on your patio or balcony, native plantings help create "stepping stone" habitats through the urban space to sustain native plants and animals.
- Participate in service – Consider volunteering for local parks and preserves. CAZCA has 8 to 10 Conservation Service Days a year.
- Enjoy our parks and preserves – Visitorship is a good indicator of how much these open spaces are valued, so get out there and enjoy nature.
To learn more about CAZCA or to support it, visit https://www.dbg.org/central-arizona-conservation-alliance.