The proposal to transform all of London (yes, UK – THE London) into a national park came to my attention by way of a story by David Goode on The Nature of Cities. “London: A National Park City” introduces a vision of a future where this old, old city is characterized by urban nature. It’s difficult to imagine what this would be like in such a densely developed, built environment. The American notion of national parks is pretty much irreconcilable with a city of any size, much less one of London’s size. London’s great age and vast historical significance (Roman roots, various monarchs, center of the empire, WWII, etc. etc.) give the preservation of the built environment priority – there can always be another restored woodland, but there’s only one Tower of London. How will these competing priorities, the natural and the constructed, mesh?
Also interesting to consider is that London is a pre-industrial city dating from an age when cities, or any human settlement, were isolated oases in a world where nature had the upper hand. Unlike the American postindustrial cities that are usually the focus of City Wild, cities the age of London have been through several cycles of relationships with nature and wildness, from city walls built to keep the wild at bay to manicured gardens to the development of parks and suburbs to bring nature back into the urban world. How much of past tensions between the urban world and the natural world need to remain to preserve London’s history, or even its identity?