Give us nature – but not too much

‘The complexity of city life favours the clever’ sounds as if it could have been said by any of the great urbanists. In fact it is a statement by the sainted Richard Attenborough in the last instalment of his Life on Earth II which tackles cities.

Near the end of the show he talks about urban greening, looking at the Bosco Verticale in Milan and the supertrees of Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Should architects do more to encourage wildlife into our cities? Attenborough seems to think so, as he delivers his final speech from a windswept Shard.

‘The complexity of city life favours the clever’ sounds as if it could have been said by any of the great urbanists. In fact it is a statement by the sainted Richard Attenborough in the last instalment of his Life on Earth II which tackles cities.

Near the end of the show he talks about urban greening, looking at the Bosco Verticale in Milan and the supertrees of Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Should architects do more to encourage wildlife into our cities? Attenborough seems to think so, as he delivers his final speech from a windswept Shard.

The difficulty of course is that when we talked about pretty bowerbirds on  a golf course or the magnificent peregrine falcons of New York, we are all in favour. We are more ambivalent when it comes to the guano factory of Rome’s starlings, or the predatory catfish of Albi. And would be welcome the leopards, spotted hyenas and various species of monkey that Attenborough shows are at their most successful in certain cities?

Almost definitely not. Londoners are ambivalent already about the prevalence of grey squirrels and feral foxes, not to mention the overabundant rodent life. Yes we want to live in harmony with nature, but it needs to be the right kind – some pretty flowers and a few charming birds. Just as a weed is a plant in the wrong place, so some of Attenborough’s footage shows what looks more like a creepy invasion than desirable biodiversity.

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