Beyond ‘green is good for you’

A while ago a joiner was doing some work in our flat, and asked me what I did for a living. I explained that among other things, I’m working on a research project about how green spaces enhance our wellbeing.  Of course they do, he snorted. Everybody knows that. His tone suggested it was ridiculous […]

The beginnings of a bridge across the sustainability gap?

The gloomy deliberations of the COP24 deliberations in Katowice focused attention on a problem political, institutional and business leaders are all aware of but have not worked out how to resolve: the gap between aspiration and action. That gap is evident in a series of increasingly urgent reports from the scientific and policy world. UNEP’s […]

Green spaces help combat loneliness – but they demand investment

Filipe Frazao / Shutterstock.com Julian Dobson, University of Sheffield Urban green spaces – including parks, woodlands, riverbanks, and gardens – are an essential part of a web of physical and mental well-being. They provide spaces to socialise and opportunities to connect with the natural world. They are restorative enclaves in stressful cities. The UK government’s […]

In praise of planners

On Monday I gave evidence to MPs on the future of high streets and town centres. To my left was a portrait of a rather wild-looking Margaret Thatcher.  It was somehow appropriate that her ghost should grimace over the discussions. What the grocer’s daughter would make of a world where groceries are shipped from vast […]

Plants, cyborgs, and the future of nature

Does nature have a future? If so, what kind of future will it be and how will humans shape it? These huge questions dominated proceedings at a conference to mark 50 years of the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield. Drawing together renowned speakers from around the world, the agenda was ostensibly the […]

Why diggers are better than levellers

God, so the saying goes, helps those who helps themselves. If you’re not of a godly persuasion, you might say you make your own luck. Action brings its own rewards. These are truisms that have filtered their way into philosophy and social policy, but it’s worth stepping back and doing a bit of de-filtering. I […]

The right to the city is a right to the story

Change the story and you change the city. Marketing and PR people have always known that, from the famous ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ campaign of the 1980s to the unforgettable, but unfortunate, decision to brand Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport with the legend ‘pure dead brilliant’. The story of a city emerges not only from the story as told, […]

Greetings from Utopia

We can only answer the question of what we should do, the philosopher Alistair MacIntyre said, if we can answer the question of which stories we are part of. We aren’t authors of our own lives so much as weavers of tales that extend before and beyond us. This week I was at Chester’s new […]

The peculiar persistence of place

If you live in Barnsley, I was once told, you can be as rude about it as you like and nobody will bat an eyelid. But if you don’t and you suggest it’s anything less than God’s holiday home when the Almighty fancies a break, heaven help you. For Barnsley, read anywhere with a strong […]

The five questions of power

Tony Benn famously said there were five questions to be asked about power. What power do you have? Where did you get it? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you? If you can’t answer the last of those questions, he told MPs, […]