TNOC 2024 – The Nature of Cities Festival

This year’s theme is “The distance between dreams and reality is action.” Or, for short, “Action.”

The following are just a tiny slice representing my top take-aways from this rich feast.

Day 1, Monday April 15

Happy Monday everyone!
Today is the first day of TNOC 2024. The Nature of Cities Festival. Opened this morning with the first plenary session, which started at 3 AM my time!

Later, in an interactive session, with a small group, we used a nature-based framework and some AI tools to generate a visual of what a nature-oriented city might look like. Lots of interesting insights and cross-pollination of ideas and models. Got to work with people from Singapore, Indonesia, and other countries.

I have attended this conference in several previous years, and always bring so many good ideas and connections to share with our city and home region.

Day 2, Tues April 16

TNOC Day 2 in progress!!! current speaker in plenary #2 – talking about goal of drinkable rivers, connecting the world’s watersheds

Li An Phoa did a 1000km walk from France to the North Sea in 60 days – dialogues w ppl along the way – incl meeting numerous Mayors – together formed “Mayors for a Drinkable Meuse”


In the small-group panel session I attended next, “Nature as a catalyst for livable communities and local economies,” I was happy to hear mention of behavioral economics. And I was able to bring up drinkable rivers as a possible overarching framework for a vibrant local economy. And brought up the idea that Degrowth is very compatible with a vibrant local economy.

This session, as it happened, most of the panelists were from Ireland, and there was a lot of great work being done, for example, bringing trees and nature to an under-resourced area of Dublin.

Day 3, Wed April 17

Mark Hostetler (from Florida! has been a speaker at Outside Collab) speaking on migratory birds in urban/suburban yards

AfricaTown Connections Blueway, Mobile AL USA. Access to historic roots via water.

Day 4, Thurs April 18

Grey City, Green Hope: Mumbai’s Maharashtra Nature Park. Beautiful nature park in the heart of the dense city, has rainwater collection ponds and riverside and other attractions

Day 5, Friday April 19

Plenary: fusing nature w buildings – inspired by living bridges ancient technology in Bangladesh. Arbor Kitchen project Berlin. Art + science + practice; creating spaces that people want to hang out in. The Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. The need in time of climate change / biodiversity loss to cultivate tree care expertise; livelihoods. “Sponge Planet”!!

Smaller session: Nature-based solutions in informal settlements in Nairobi. They have been able to address a lot of what were very serious flooding issues. It’s the middle of the rainy season, and the nature-based solutions are holding up well. We learned about this organization “The future of global urban development is closely linked to the future of informal settlements. Climate change is expected to have severe impacts on informal settlements in sub-Saharan Africa. Nature-based solutions (NbS) are considered key in adapting to a changing climate while realising significant social and ecological benefits.”

Day 7, Tuesday April 22

integrating living systems w built systems;
the power of comics to tell persuasive stories motivating change.
NBS comics (=Nature Based Solutions) has been around for 10 months, during which time has been read by 1 million ppl!!
“Draw your fantasy, make it real”
Possible NBS “comic con” in the future?
Inherent complexity & ephemerality of urban environment means we can experiment. Imagine our futures, trigger a change in thinking not bound by science. Art can be transformative & disruptive.

Unleash some new ways of looking at the future; engage w novel ecologies; not get stuck in fear

Smaller session: remaking wetlands in Latin American cities

Day 8, Wednesday April 23

Seed session: A public “living room” in Louisville KY. Tour and background of old Louisville neighborhood; intro to concept of “fourth places” (meaning-making). Old decommissioned catholic church, now being used as a public living room type space.

Seed session: Chicago tree-planting initiative – Urban Oasis Unleashed: Empowering your city with lush street canopies through advocacy

Day 9, Thursday April 25

Getting businesses more involved with preserving urban tree canopy; widening the base of stake holders; challenges for human wellbeing under heat and drought conditions

Day 10 – final day, Friday April 26

Plenary: Favelas – creative resilience & social richness of informal settlements. How to find “sweet spot” where govt is helping ppl without quashing flexibility & inventiveness. An overly managed city is a dead city.

Seed session “Buried brook” – daylighting a creek in the Bronx. Nature music app – interactive. Different sounds depending on which way you are walking.

Further Exploration:

The Nature of Cities Festival website has the various titles of the talks, and names of people & organizations etc. There may even be recordings made available on the website if they are not already. As activists it behooves us to use every possible means of connection, we need to be connected with the people around the world who are working on the same things we are. There are so so many of us!