Research, Travel, urban forestry

Diversity in urban forestry

This past week I had the opportunity to participate in the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS) International Round table workshop and pubic event called, “Do Rainbows Come in Green? Urban Forests and Multicultural Citizenship”. The three-day workshop was coordinated by Dr. Cecil Konijnendijk van den Bosch, and held in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia from October 23rd-25th. Feels great to be back at my Faculty!

Day one of our roundtable contended with the complex and dynamic social and ecological processes of our urban environments. Topics discussed included governance, place-making, immigration, active citizenship and re-wilding to name a few. We also had an afternoon stroll to discuss these topics amidst UBC’s beautiful campus for inspiration. The day ended with our Public Event which included a photo exhibit, a dance performance by Polymer dance group, and then closed with a panel discussion about integrating diversity into urban forestry research and practice – I am honoured to have been asked to represent Canada with leading global experts from Finland, UK and Netherlands. I am also grateful to my colleague, Lorien Nesbitt, for the opportunity to co-curate the photo exhibit together and to everyone who helped make this event possible.

Day two of our roundtable contended with themes around how changing populations impact urban forests. Topics discussed included densification, dealing with mistrust and disenfranchisement, aging populations, private vs. public land ownership, and diversity in the labour market. The afternoon consisted of a field tour including a drive-by of the Arbutus project (a community greening initiative replacing an old railway in Vancouver), a walking tour of Queen Elizabeth Park and arboretum, and a visit to Bloedel Conservatory located on Vancouver’s highest peak, which houses 200 species of birds and parrots!

Finally, day three of our roundtable contended with the theme of reflecting diversity in urban forestry practice. Topics included engagement strategies, political planning processes, and sharing examples of projects from around the world. At the end of each day, we identified knowledge gaps to provide input for future research directions.

Overall, this workshop provided a positive and inspiring venue for cross-collaboration with international experts with different points of view from various countries, ages, backgrounds and career experiences. I gained a deeper understanding of how complex the challenges are in engaging multiple groups. What resonated most for me was the notion of subcultures and the multiple dimensions of our identities. Ultimately, as we consider the changing demographics and how they impact urban forests, the question is: how can we bring that knowledge in to reflect greater diversity in civil society?

A huge thank you to Dr. Cecil Konijnendijk van den Bosch for coordinating this event and to the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS) for their support!

Click here to view our digital photo exhibit.

Click here to view some more photos of our seminar group!