Biophilic Cities

Birmingham is the UK’s only biophilic city, part of a global network, that integrate biophilia into policy & service delivery. It fits with the UK government’s 2019 Year of Green Action. This project asks what is a biophilic city, that by creating sanctuaries where we could be present—could help us reclaim and recognise that we ARE the environment.

Birmingham is very keen to take a national lead on the natural environment and green city agendas -through the planned Government’s Year Of Green Action- 2019. To celebrate and mark this year, the Leader has committed to work with the local universities -to hold a Peoples Summit for Nature in the new year of 2019.
This will be the launch of a new movement to re-connect the people of Birmingham with their city’s nature, and so provide a mechanism to facilitate community engagement, consultation and help in shaping a future green City and green games in 2022.

Through the research, public engagement, the exhibition and its legacy, this work will develop new audiences who will have the opportunity to understand art’s links to biomimicry and its contemporary relevance. Developing our artistic practice using exciting innovative LiDAR mapping laser scanning (carbon sequestration) and living walls (biomimicry design). Brining life to biomimicry design technologies through art-making. Winterbourne was built by pioneer industrialists who developed town planning reform through the early C20th Garden City movement and followed the the style of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Terrestrial LiDAR Tree map

Biophilic Cities and the Garden City Movement background:

John Sutton Nettlefold became a town planner and was part of the early 20th Century Garden City movement, he established the garden suburb Moor Pool in Harbourne Birmingham. Garden Cities are a method of urban planning of self-contained communities surrounded by green belts, which aimed to reduce the alienation of people and society from nature and provide an alternative to the inner city slums.

Winterborne House and Gardens was built by the industrialist, town planner and social reformer John Sutton Nettlefold. Named after his grandfather and industrial revolution pioneer John Nettleford (1792- 1866), who set up the steam powered Nettleford factory in 1843 which was the world biggest manufacturer of nuts, screws and bolts. The business became Guest, Keen and Nettleford in 1902, and is now the global engineering business GKN registered in Redditch, Worcestershire.

Birmingham was the centre of the Midlands enlightenment at the end of the 18th Century. Linked to the lunar society, it was a scientific, economic, political, and cultural period of growth facilitating the exchange of ideas between experimental science, culture and practical technology, that enabled the technological preconditions for the rapid economic growth of the industrial revolution to be attained.

Technology and research partners:

Working with Dr Matt Disney (UCL Geography) and Dr Kim Calders (Wageningen University) “Terrestrial laser scanning, also called terrestrial LiDAR, allows us to measure biomass with far less uncertainty than before. The current methods yield results that may be off by as much as 37%. The LiDAR method, by comparison, delivers more than 90% accuracy and there is still room for improvement. We can now ‘weigh’ trees far more precisely and then determine their biomass. The current uncertainties about the presence of carbon in forests are, therefore, reduced.”

Moving image installation still, Jaime Jackson 2018.

Strategic partners and linkages:

Birmingham City Council Sustainability Officer, Nick Grayson. Birmingham is the UK’s Biophilic City, part of an international network of cities. Birmingham has more public open parkland than any other European city. Birmingham is the UK’s only city in the international Biophilic (literally love of nature/life) city network, Biophilic design aims to reconnect humankind with nature, sustaining a physical relationship in order to improve overall environmental condition as well as improving wellbeing, mental and physical health.

The project links to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and to Sustainability West Midlands Community goals. Both above-ground biomass and carbon stocks are important details for UN-REDD, the United Nations initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation that is striving to keep the destruction of forests in check and thereby preserve the uptake of carbon by trees.

The program builds on the Biophilic legacy of public access to parks, the birthplace of the industrial revolution and the establishment of workers rights from the Birmingham Enlightenment period and the progressive members of the Lunar Society. It is a program of artist commissions, exhibitions and seminars, part of BCU based New Art West Midlands exchange program. The project sits within the European Biophilic City Network and the European Green Capital program. The project connects artists with government departments, sustainability organisations, arts organisations and universities in the U.K. Midlands with the South West, Mid-Wales, the Basque Country and Oslo.

Moving image installation still, Jaime Jackson 2018.

Strands of research linked to UN, national and Birmingham strategic natural eco assessments and the research council’s liveable cities research:
Financial reslience. Natural Capital, carbon locking and innovation opportunities in product based biomimicry, sustainability through agricultural adaption. Social sustainability, adaption and resilience – process based biomimicry in the face of climate change, social anthropology health and wellbeing – open spaces in Cities, social change.

There is no chance of change, there is no potential for movement without creative engagement, without making use of our imagination. For us to realise our interconnectivity and mutual interdependency we must shift our fixed view perspectives of nature of materiality.

It is an art partnership network between New Art West Midlands  Birmingham/ the Midlands,RAW  in Wales, i-DAT  Plymouth, PNEK  Oslo (Production Network for Electronic Art, Norway)

When we lose our  connection to nature….then we do not know how to nurture their environment or how to govern our world. We destroy our ecology at the same time as we destroy one another. From that perspective, healing our society goes hand in hand with healing our personal, elemental connection with the phenomenal (material) world. Chögyam  Trungpa

We have a network of scientists and researchers that we are working with including Univeristy of Wales Trinity St David University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, Plymouth University, Oslo University, The University of the Basque Country BC3 (the Basque Centre of Climate Change), Autonomous University of Barcelona Instittute of Environmental Sciences and Technology, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences and the Oslo Academy of Fine Art.

To create engaging transformative visions of a better world, to increase our chances of solving the unsustainability of present social-ecological system dynamics….To create spaces for imagination and engagement with communities to get ownership about their climate futures at local/regional levels…. ‘Conventional science methods are not enough (to create a change in behaviour)…climate change is mostly a symptom and amplifier of impacts rather than a cause, sustainability is mostly an engagement challenge, not only a scientific one…Art based methods are uniquely placed to foster collective imagination, social energy and awareness.’ J. David Tàbara & Diego Galafasi Sustainabilogy Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona & Stockholm Resilience Centre

Sally Payen, Greenham Symbole (c ), 2016

If you take any part of Nature and look at it, it’s edges will be ragged and twisty and not straight. So to measure parts of Nature, to make Nature accessible to linear-some would call it, practical thinking, all of us are taught to round off the edges, to create specific and distinct boundaries between one thing and the next. This actually only gives us an approximation, a guess. And no matter the power of our magnification, it remains only an estimation of the real. Stephen Harold Buhner

Arcimboldo ‘Flora Meretrix’ (detail) 1590

I’ve worked as an artist in the world of climate change for 15 years and have been part of many discussions… In moments of despair, it feels like art can’t begin to touch what needs to be done.  At other times, it feels like the creative world can open out the conversation and facts in a way that transcends science and also doesn’t alienate or intimidate the casual or lay audience. Michèle Noach, Greenpeace Environmental activist & artist

Treeline moving image installation for Lavish at Latitude Festival. Waterscreen projection, Jaime Jackson 2017

We know the catastrophe is possible, probable given recent events, yet we do not believe it will really happen…. I can understand, intellectually that ‘life’ in this country might not be the same in 30 years time as it is today: that if climate change goes ahead unchecked it could in face be profoundly and catastrophically different. But somehow I have been unable to turn this knowledge into a recognition that my own life will alter. Like everyone who has been insulated from death, I have projected the future as repeated instances of the present.’ George Monbiot – ‘In Heat’

Given the large impact of human activities on climate, it follows that a better understanding of the ways different socio-cultural groups think about CC is crucial for the development and implementation of effective climate policies. For effective climate action (mitigation and adaptation) to occur, CC has to be perceived as one of the greatest challenges for society today. BC3 University of the Basque Country ‘Drivers of Climate Change Opinion’

For more information on the Biophilic city network visit Guardian

Jaime Jackson, Treeline moving image, 1’11’’ loop installation 2017

At the same time the arts reflect and inflect a societies shared values its culture so a investigation by artists in a period of climate change could still be worthwhile. But only without a operation of art from the global scientific academic, political economic and social systems, in between our society’s ideas values and systems and the way that they are articulated. Art inflects life as life infects art, as it is what constitutes an understanding of what is the self and what constitutes an environment underpins attitudes to, say, the land.

A value of artists and modern art is its critical distance from which dominant trends and systems informing conditioned reality constructs can be seen, and be interrupted. Modern Art’s autonomy, far from being a disabling denial of the political, is a critical dimension in which the aesthetic is a refusal of routine. That is one point of departure; political activism is another. They overlap. For that reason I do not separate art from critiques of political and economic structures; nor do I separate arguments around ecology and environmentalism from those around social justice. Malcom’s Miles Eco-Aesthetics.

Jaime Jackson Biophilic Wishing Tree, National Tree Week, Queenswood 2017