What Makes a Place Beautiful

Nature defines a place’s significance.

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View of Sydney Harbor from the city’s Royal Botanic Gardens

It is nature that provides the foundation upon which human activity thrives. We often hear about the awesomeness of Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, Sydney’s Opera House, or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

But what would London be without the River Thames that meanders through its cosmopolitan heart? What about Paris sans the Seine? Where would Sydney be without its harbors, or San Francisco without its iconic – and steep! – hills? How about Sedona without its Red Rocks? What of the entire island of Japan without its system of restorative forests? Budapest without the Danube, or Abuja, Nigeria without Zuma Rock?

In the United States, we enjoy a nearly 150 year-old system of national parks, parks which Congressional leaders at that time intended “as a pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” And in Australia’s Sunshine Coast, residents and visitors can stroll along the pristine coastline for 96 km – about 60 miles – on a generous, publicly provisioned walkway called the Coastal Pathway.

Closer to home, community leaders deliver the multiple benefits of national and state conservation areas to local places. These inspiring people bring the commons to the places where the rest of us work, live, and play.

Creating biophilic cities is one way leaders do this. Biophilic cities are ones that intentionally “protect, restore and grow nature.” And on an even more localized scale, developers of community orchards, gardens, and trail systems re-create natural processes and welcome native flora and fauna into our common spaces.

Biophilic cities and town-situated commons are a necessary complement to large-scale and mainly automobile-accessed conservation areas – see many people biking to Yellowstone National Park?  Place-embedded nature enlivens our landscape and expands our sense of what is ours. For the true value of cities and all places lies in their natural beauty, beauty we can and should all share.

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  • Jefftown37

    Thoughtful post. This brings to mind the importance of often-overlooked national parks transit systems for allowing a park-once experience. Leave the car at the lodge and bus to your trailhead.

    • SethLaJ

      Thanks, Jeff. It is true that national parks’ transit systems are often underused. I’m drifting toward the emerging concept of bringing nature and biodiversity closer to where people engage in daily activity. Of course, transportation infrastructure – roads and parking lots in particular – are often at odds with creating and restoring ecosystems that support much more than human life.

    • Dave Deming

      Bus to the trailhead, to an avid hiker and bus driver, those are beautiful words. The trailhead doesn’t need a big parking lot.

      • SethLaJ

        Beautiful words, indeed. How about rail, bus, walk, stroll, roll, cycle, skate to the trailhead?