A collection of the best quotes by the UK’s guerilla geographer Dan Raven-Ellison.
Dan Raven-Ellison loves every bit of the environment – even the urban parts.
He’s constantly inventing new ways to share and communicate the positives people aren’t necessarily seeing – there in the city and indeed in the wider countryside. Plus he’s big on the potential for things to be way better – in his words “greener, healthier and wilder.”
His focus has been on London and the UK where he lives. But many of his ideas could apply equally to where you are.
Here’s Dan on a range of topics related to his work. Starting with one of his most outstanding feats – to have London designated as the world’s first ‘National Park City’.
The National Park City
“The idea of a national park city is to transform how people think about their city.”
“A national park is a social construct. It’s traditionally applied to remote or rural settings but what if we flipped it and applied it to an urban setting… you can say that nature might be a smaller concern but that raises the question, what is nature, and the boundaries between it and people?” From ‘Is it time for our capital to become a national park?’, The Independent, 26 September 2014
“Britain has already exported the idea of urban nature conservation around the world, so the only contribution I am making is stressing that the whole of London’s urban landscape should be part of the National Park City. That means all the parks, gardens, rivers, industrial sites – a recognition of the collective value of the whole urban landscape.” From Rambler’s ‘Walk’ magazine, 22 February 2018
“Around the world, we have national parks that represent all kinds of habitat – mountains, coral reefs, deserts. Cities can be some of the most biologically diverse parts of countries.”
“We have eight million trees in London; the world’s largest urban forest.”
“We know we can live healthier lives when we’re closer to nature. So why don’t we invite more nature into cities.”
“We need to bring nature to people so that it’s part of their everyday lives.” From ‘London, the World’s First National Park City’, Positive News, 9 July 2019
“We only need a slight change in thinking to empower the billions of people who live in cities to realise they could be nature conservationists in and around where they live.”
“If people engage in protecting nature on their doorstep they’re far more likely to be invested in protecting it in pristine and distant places.”
“Urban nature conservation is in the DNA of town and city dwellers, from private gardens to sprawling nature reserves.” From Rambler’s ‘Walk’ magazine, 22 February 2018
“What really excites me is to think about children born in London now. In five years’ time when they start school, imagine their teachers know that they’re in a Greater London National Park, and teach them differently about green space and nature. Then imagine them in 20 years, as they grow up to become architects or designers or planners. What ideas and solutions might they have to make us even healthier, even happier, and make this city even better?” From ‘Is it time for our capital to become a national park?’, The Independent , 26 September 2014
“There are an awful lot of things to be worried about in the world at the moment,” says the father of one, “but we also need positive visions of a better future.” From ‘London, the World’s First National Park City’, Positive News, 9 July 2019
The need for nature
“Investing in nature is not a nice to have, it’s absolutely essential for our well-being and our futures but also that of all the life we share this planet with.”
“One in 7 species in the UK is at risk of extinction. Could we create more space for wildlife? Of course we can.” From Friends of the Earth ‘Space for Nature’.
“We need more natural capital accounting, which places a value on green services by showing how access to green space reduces the effect of income inequality or mental illness and its burden on the National Health Service.” From Rambler’s ‘Walk’ magazine, 22 February 2018
Why we need a better understanding of our environment
“If people have a distorted picture of how we’re using the land, how do we move forward? So, whether it’s how to feed the next generation, how we tackle the mass extinction of species, or how resilient we make ourselves to climate change – the first step is to see clearly what this country looks like now.” From Friends of the Earth ‘Space for Nature’.
UK land use
“I don’t think anyone really has a clue what Britain actually looks like. It’s just too big and complicated for us to get a proper sense of proportion. And that’s a problem when people are making decisions about how we feed ourselves or how much more affordable housing we can build. Or, crucially, how much more space for nature we can have. If we don’t have a proper sense of what the country looks like then how can we fix our problems?” From Friends of the Earth ‘Space for Nature’.
“How can we re-balance things so that we have radically more space for wildlife and for people?” From Friends of the Earth ‘Space for Nature’.
“One of the most shocking things, walking through literally hundreds of miles of crops, was realising that half of all the cereal crops you see in the countryside are fed to livestock. What else could we do with that land?” From Friends of the Earth ‘Space for Nature’.
The benefits of walking
“I find that walking creates the time to think and reflect, to see and meet others, and share spaces with people in an equitable way. I use walking meetings a lot – you get better ideas and more collaboration.” From Rambler’s ‘Walk’ magazine, 22 February 2018
“While people are very conscious of going out to walk for fun, there’s something very beautiful in the idea of slowing down for functional walks.” From ‘How you can help plot the future of UK walking’, National Geographic, 8 April 2020
“As an explorer, of course I love deserts and rainforests, but I also love hiking across cities such as London or Manchester or Amsterdam or Paris just as much — it’s just different.” From ‘Meet the Adventurer’, National Geographic, 22 November 2019
Related posts and podcasts
Dan Raven-Ellison profile
Here’s more about Dan and his work.
More stories on cities
Via the link above you’ll find other people leading the way on re-thinking cities.