The Roles of Urban Dwelling Communities: Local vs Global Scale Conservation

In a rapidly changing world, habitat destruction , invasive species, population, pollution and over-harvesting (HIPPO) threaten our ecosystem (Wilson, 1992). As the level of urbanisation continues to increase, further biodiversity loss and environmental degradation occurs (Rayleigh, 2007).  Consequently, we are often subject to the constant bombardment of news about the impacts of climate change, loss of pollinators and how we have destroyed the planet. Global threats appear costly and insurmountable, leaving people feeling forlorn and powerless. However, as the presentation stated, if we focus on instigating action at a local scale, social, monetary, temporal and ecological targets are more likely to be met. Local participation will have a far greater positive impact on conservation than that on a global scale (Blackmore, et al, 2013). This leads to the feeling of empowerment amongst individuals, encouraging greater involvement within local conservation.

tetley fig 1Figure 1: An example of guerrilla gardening which shows a group of people planting flowery shrubs on a road verge (

To ensure greater conservation of green spaces and biodiversity, the roles individuals can play in conserving their urban environment should be further understood and recognised within society. When HIPPO is broken down on a local scale, communication between diverse groups of people ensures greater consensus and participation. Urban agriculture plays an important role in this.

Based on Geddes’s (1995) statement “Think globally, act locally” local conservation projects focus on urban dwellers participating in urban agriculture on both an individual and community level. Whilst individual acts include planting in windowsills, hanging baskets and raised beds, community acts include guerrilla gardening, seed bombs and/or getting involved in allotments. Guerrilla gardening is a spontaneous and anonymous form of planting in which areas of green space, regardless of their size, are used to plant crops (Crane, Viswanathan and Whitelaw, 2013). These include road verges and roundabouts (figure 1).

Seed bombs, which are balls of flour, soil and seeds are similar in their anonymity and spontaneity and are thrown randomly in green areas (figure 2) (Crane, Viswanathan and Whitelaw, 2013). Planting seasonal herbs, flowers and vegetables are also encouraged to attract pollinators.

tetley fig 2

Figure 2: The development of a seed bomb. By day 21, seeds  have grown into a small plant (

Urban conservation provides many benefits to a number of organisms and services. Green spaces act as important foraging sites, habitats and wildlife corridors for pollinators, ensuring the conservation of biodiversity (Baldock, et al, 2015). Grass is responsible for water retention, therefore reducing the likelihood of flooding occurring (Bengtsson, 2005). Plants photosynthesise, increasing the quality of air that urban dwellers breathe in (Akbari, Pomerantz and Tara, 2001). Larger numbers of flowers help to increase pollinator populations which in turn increase crop yields, providing us with greater quantities of food (Cleveland, Orum and Ferguson, 1985). These benefits illustrate that by integrating the conservation of green spaces into our urban environments, money can be saved. Not only does urban conservation provide ecological and environmental benefits, it brings diverse groups of people together and increases well-being (Huynh, Janssen and Pickett, 2013). It creates intergenerational spaces for people to engage with one another. This cultivation of community action then helps to generate a feeling of empowerment, encouraging greater involvement.

The benefits of local scale conservation over those of global scale conservation can be concluded with the quote;

“Many small people, who in many small places, do many small things that can alter the face of the world.” (Anonymous, East Side Gallery Berlin)

This conveys that conservation on a local scale will be far more effective than on a global scale. As participation increases, targets will be achieved leaving people with the feeling of empowerment and a desire to continue conserving our ecosystem from the HIPPO threats that it faces.

By Freya Tetley


Akbari, H., Pomerantz, M and Taha, H. 2001. Cool surfaces and shade trees to reduce energy use and improve air quality in urban areas. Solar Energy, 70(3):295-310.

Baldock, K., Goddard, M., Hicks, D., Kunin, W., Mitschunas, N., Osgathorpe, L., Potts, S., Robertson, K., Scott, A., Stone, G., Vaughan, I. and Memmott, J. 2015. Where is the UK’s pollinator biodiversity? The importance of urban areas for flower-visiting insects. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, 282:1803.

Bengtsson, L. 2005. Peak flows from thin sedum-moss roof. Nordic Hydrology, 36(2):269-280.

Cleveland, D. A., Orum, T. V., & Ferguson, N. 1985. Economic value of home vegetable gardens in an urban Desert environment. Horticultural Science, 20(4):694-696.

Crane, A., Viswanathan, L. and Whitelaw, G. 2013. Sustainability through intervention: a case study of guerrilla gardening in Kingston, Ontario. Local Environment, 18(1):71-90.

Huynh, Q., Craig, W., Janssen, I. and Pickett, W. 2013. Exposure to public natural space as a protective factor for emotional well-being among young people in Canada. BMC Public Health, 13(1):407.

Rayleigh, C. and Urdal, H. 2007. Climate change, environmental degradation and armed conflict. Political Geography, 26(6):674-694.

Wilson, E. 2002. The future of life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.


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