The City and the Natural Environment

By Joel A. Tarr for the Carnegie Mellon University

While cities and their metropolitan areas interact with and shape the natural environment, it is only recently, as Martin Melosi and Christine Rosen have observed, that historians have begun to systematically consider this relationship.

Geographers and urban designers such as Ian Douglas, Spencer W. Havlick, and Ann Spirin, however, had previously laid foundations for this work. Just as urban history developed as a field in reaction to a growing societal focus on and awareness of urban problems, so has urban environmental studies grown with the evolution of the environmental movement.

During our own time, as Ian McHarg was one of the first to demonstrate, the tension between natural and urbanized areas has increased, as the spread of metropolitan populations and urban land uses has reshaped and destroyed natural landscapes and environments. The relationship between the city and the natural environment has actually been circular, with cities having massive effects on the natural environment, while the natural environment, in turn, has profoundly shaped urban configurations. Read more >

Photo by Louise G.S. Kruf ©