Opportunities and Alternatives for Enhancing Urban Forests in Compact Cities in Developing Countries

  • C. Y. Jim

That cities need to be greened is almost a foregone conclusion, if not de rigueur, for any plans for urban development or redevelopment. A green city is an ideal with a universal appeal that traverses temporal, spatial, and cultural divides (Hestmark, 2000). For many people, the greening of urbanized areas conjures up a deep innate desire to connect with the natural world and its diversified assemblages of organisms. It is natural for people to harbor a psychological and emotional attachment to beautiful natural objects, such as admirable amenity vegetation (Kaplan, 1984; Ulrich, 1986). Different socioeconomic strata develop similar levels of appreciation and preference for urban nature (Kuo et al., 1998).

Urban greening entails introducing natural elements into the largely cultural fabric of cities. The fundamental requirement is the provision of planting spaces by design, or leaving such spaces unpaved by default. Greening is realized to different degrees in cities, and the quality and amount of green space is dictated by fashion, and so subject to changing contemporaneous societal attitudes and political will (Mumford, 1961; Attorre et al., 2000). Nature and culture make an enigmatic pair in relation to the history of urbanization. It is from nature that humans obtained sustenance and inspiration to develop our culture. Yet upon acquiring culture, in characteristic human fashion, we unthinkingly began to damage and reject nature (Jim, 2002a). Most cities customarily are dominated by cultural artifacts that overshadow nature, and in some places nature is thoroughly eradicated.

Subconsciously and subliminally, humans need nature for a balanced physical and mental development (see the biophilia concept of Wilson, 1984). Yet consciously or unconsciously, we create conditions in cities that are often inhospitable to plant growth. Different cities, due to inherent natural biota and topography, and their development and redevelopment history, have engendered urban forms that can either accommodate or constrain vegetation growth. The most intense human-nature interactions and conflicts occur in cities, and densely populated, compact cities are particularly deprived of greenery. In recent years, especially in some developing cities, past excesses and paradoxical attitudes were moderated. We have renewed our partnership with nature and relearned to embrace the notable emblems of nature, such as amenity vegetation, in our attempts to reestablish our tenuous psychological link with nature.


Urban Planning Green Space Urban Soil Urban Forest Green Roof 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Y. Jim
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe University of Hong KongChina

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