I heard about WILD via Daniel Raven-Ellison (@danravenellison), a guerrilla geographer driving the campaign to make London a national park city. With my friend Dan Burgess (@dansolo) of Swarm/The Wild Network, we slunk in late to a full lecture hall at London College of Communications. WILD set out to ‘biohack the city,’ and posed such questions as: ‘can we rewild modern life?’ A symposium aiming to explore nature, design, technology and urban life was not to be missed.
Some highlights of the evening for me personally: I missed David Bond but caught the end of Beth Collier (@wildinthecity1), a nature-based psychotherapist who runs Wild in the City. Her call to arms, reinforcing the power that nature has to positively influence our individual happiness, remains something massively overlooked in our society. Tim Brooke of the Future Cities Catapult pointed out that the new is actually old. Richard Reynolds (@Richard_001) spoke about the immediate vicinity, Elephant and Castle, where he has documented the demise of green space through bad planning, but keeps nature breathing on numerous fronts with guerrilla gardening. The architect and artist Christian Kerrigan (@200yearc) showed a number of his works, including one called ‘When I feel like nature may give up,’ which struck a chord. Ezio Manzini spoke about the paradox of wild vs culture and the need to adopt a less anthropogenic point of view. Andrew Merritt of Something and Son (@somethingandson) brings nature to the city through design, with projects such as Swift Tower and Farm:Shop.
Following a quick break (more on this shortly) it was straight back into the action. Ralph Underhill (@cartoonralph) chaired, framing his role around the positive narrative of rewilding. Sian Berry (@sianberry), the Green Party candidate for Mayor, pointed out that “it feels like we are defending our wildlife from a number of threats.” Melissa Sterry spoke of the bionic city and the breaking down of boundaries, the potential to design architecture with animals. Carlo Laurenzi talked about reprofiling and Johanna Gibbons spoke about our sense of vulnerability. Dan Raven-Ellison, the last I saw, gave an inspiring speech, repeating the facts that underpin his campaign. London is 47% green space. We share it with 13-16,000 species. Let's open the door still further and make London a national park.
All in all, WILD was an exceptional event, dense but digestible. It confirms there are a great many highly creative, intelligent humans in this city looking at how best to bring nature back into our lives. The biggest impact for me was during the performance (Silva + Sajovic) in the interval, a reference to Sontag’s interest in breaking inherited patterns of thought, the consumption of bread (a plant) sustaining us, nurturing us. Looked at in this light (it was more clear to me than ever before), it is madness to imagine that our consciousness is anything more than an extension of nature. And to my mind that was the only thing lacking from WILD, the acceptance that no matter how denatured we feel, we are nature. The wild is not just outside.
With this in mind, I wrote a short piece called ‘The Wild Is In Your Heart.’