Not unlike other cities, Copenhagen is facing urban challenges such as a demand for housing and social cohesion; striving to become a carbon neutral city, partially through the implementation of a circular economy and successful waste management; and the conservation and support of (urban) biodiversity. As these challenges are huge, they do deserve to be approached individually. However, while such an individual approach is necessary in some occasions, it also risks losing sight of the systemic relations between these challenges, and to treat symptoms over causes. Indeed, housing and social cohesion, circular economy and waste management, and biodiversity are linked through a global trend and context – the urbanisation of our planet within the context of the climate crises.
When looking more closely at biodiversity, the connectedness to other challenges becomes clear. Indeed, biodiversity and social cohesion directly collide when looking at green areas within urban spaces, that are often seen as safe spaces for natury, yet also take on recreational functions and allow residents to successfully (or unsuccessfully) engage in social connections. Truly, these spaces heavily contribute to issues of social inclusion, and intrinsically link questions of community and biodiversity together.
Exploring this relationship between urban community and biodiversity, makes us ask how nature and city go together. Understanding the city as a human space seems rather egocentric, when, in fact, there are so many animals and plants living amongst us, that one might very well think of our urban environment as a multi-species city, perhaps even as nature itself. Such a shift in thought might seem unimaginable, yet, if we look at cities such as Singapore, we can already see it happening. Additionally, this perspective also addresses questions of circular economy and waste management, as it is nature who is currently suffering from a lack thereof. No matter whether we look at the relationship between waste management and nature, or nature and social cohesion, they all raise a question more fundamental than CO2 goals or the access to green space per se: Coming out of the Anthropocene, what will our future relationship with nature look like? Around the world, movements start to emerge, successfully advocating for granting (human) rights to nature. These movements are often led by indigenous communities and, while posing questions of politics, power and social cohesion, reflect more than just a respectful attitude towards forests or water. At a fundamental level they go even beyond that, proclaiming a spiritual connection to the non-human environment that poses the questions not of "what" but "who" nature is.
So, what if we adopt this perspective? What would a future Copenhagen look like, in which nature and humans are truly equal, in which the city is understood as a safe space for nature rather than separate from it? How can we design and shape cities not by adopting different measurements, but by fundamentally shifting our understanding of who nature is, and how cities are treating them?