If we are to reassess these questions in the context of the future visions and scenarios, we need to consider the following:
If the objective of increasing densities is to create some alternatives to suburbia and sprawl, then we must be mindful that we do not apply the usual suburban mindset and standards to the provision of green space and parks. Contemporary suburbia means car dependence. It thus also means that expanses of ‘greenery’ can be accessed by car. People with back yards of their own no doubt look for different outdoor experience than those living more densely.
Much of our current green and open space provision and planning is based around size and area. We must move beyond mere size to give high priority to location. All primary green space must be accessible by walking. It is public and community space of high order which must be given due regard as a vital social and urban form element. How it is designed, equipped and arranged is at least as important as area and location. We have scant standards for what constitutes high quality urban ‘open’ space as a social, recreational and cultural artefact.
We must rationalize a balance between conservation of greenery, open space and urbanization. Preservation of large areas of remnant vegetation can be counterproductive to the kind of urbanization which we need to support public transport and walkability. The present diversity of urban wildlife in some areas may not be sustainable in the face of other objectives. There are times when we cannot have our cake and eat it too.
We need to redefine the meaning of ‘green’ in each urban context. It does not have to be bushland in large swathes or open spaces with a lot of grass. We are yet to discover the value of ‘green roofs’. High density cities can have a greener expression, presence and amenity than many of our sprawling suburbs.
How many of our cities and towns have an overall ‘greenscape’ plan? Why is it that too often existing trees nominated for preservation end up dead well before their time? How effectively can one manage the urban landscape if major decisions on street trees are made by the utility service providers and not the city authorities?
We are facing the challenges of a changing climate, energy availability, different demographic and social scenarios and a new era in water management. In that context we must reconsider what we mean, want and need in a ‘green’ city.