Blue Urbanism: Cities and Oceans Together

We live on the blue planet, with three-quarters of its surface covered by oceans. Yet, we also increasingly live on the urban planet.  Those two realms are profoundly disconnected.  Yet, cities impact oceans in many significant ways, direct and indirect. Cities can and must begin to include oceans in their planning, what might be called blue urbanism, and a natural extension of the emphasis given to urban greening and green urbanism in many cities today.

What would it mean to live in cities where we care about and feel connected to oceans? Blue Urbanism challenges us to imagine how terrestrial urbanites can also be understood to be citizens of the sea, citizens and inhabitants of the blue world, and as such care for and steward over this most amazing of Earth’s realms.

Blue Urbanism can take many forms:  nurturing new opportunities for physical contact and emotional connection with the ocean’s edge, greening ports and shipping operations, extending urban spatial planning and conservation into marine environments, identifying and learning about “ocean sister cities”, reducing the urban pollution and detritus that makes its way into oceans, and shifting our seafood consumption towards more sustainable, restorative fishing regimes and practices, among many others.

Tim Beatley is writing a book by this title, to be published by Island Press in 2013. The book will explore the ways in which cities impact ocean environments, near and far, and how cities can begin to take oceans into account and begin to practice blue urbanism. In what ways might a city plan and care for ocean and marine environments? And what ethical duties do cities and urban residents have towards ocean and marine environments?  The book will examine these emerging meanings of blue urbanism, and the some of the steps and actions already underway by emerging blue-urban cities in the US and around the world.

Beatley believes there is a need to profoundly re-orient the perspectives of urban populations of urbanites to develop these emotional connections, and the harness the tremendous potential of cities and urban populations on behalf of ocean protection and conservation.  While creating cities full of (terrestrial) nature and cities that use energy and resources of all kinds sparingly, remains important, it is time for us to focus more attention on the marine and aquatic worlds affected by cities, and especially those open ocean and marine worlds that are beyond the immediate surroundings of cities.

Please send me your ideas and stories of the ways in which urbanites and cities can connect with our oceans and be a force for ocean health.

Want to learn more?

Read Tim Beatley’s essay on “Blue Urbanism” in Places Journal:

Watch Tim Beatley’s webinar for APA on Blue Urbanism:

Utah APA Webcast – View Online

View/Download the webinar slides (.pdf)
Utah APA Webcast Archive page