The concrete grittiness of the metropolis is not always as monolithic as it seems; there are typically pockets of green, havens of calm and urban biodiversity that thrive despite all attempts to ‘develop’ them into oblivion. These urban wild spaces are places to forage, marvel at urban wildlife, and are also places to gather. They are the hidden hearts of vibrant cities, they are a source of wellbeing to urban dwellers. Yet too often, these precious spaces are threatened by urban development, which shortsightedly views these spaces as abandoned, residual and of little economic value.
But worldwide, communities are banding together to save their local urban wild spaces, using a variety of tactics like outreach, events, guerilla gardening, and in the case of one Montreal collective, creating an interactive online map using open source tools, mapping the wild, uncultivated spaces of Montreal.
Wild City Mapping is an open collective that is internationally based but locally focused, with members who are from all over the world but live in Montreal. Their aim is to create a crowd-sourced map(s) that bring all these disparate wild city spaces into one map:
Our map will collapse the past, the present and future. We will commemorate the past spaces that existed, the wild spaces that are thriving today, and will leave space for you to envision where new wild green spaces could pop up. All this will be mapped through the impressions of the community that uses the green spaces.
One of the members, Maia Iotzova, was recently interviewed by the CBC:
Wild City Mapping Montreal/Screen capture
“You can’t save what you don’t know is there”
The concept of mapping urban wild spaces in a cooperative, crowd-sourced manner has its virtues: by bringing these spaces into collective awareness, these spaces become real and more vital than ever. To paraphrase environmental writer E.O. Wilson, you can’t save what you don’t know is there.
On the other hand, letting everyone in on the secret of these hidden green spaces may also push them further toward ‘development’ and extinction, as municipalities and private interests could be drawn to the possibilities of cashing in on them somehow.
Nevertheless, wild city mapping is something that communities all over the world could engage in, in one form or another, as a way to ensure that urban wilderness is preserved and nurtured; knowing is half the battle. If you’ve got a Montreal wildspace (past, present or future) that you think should be documented, head on over to Wild City Mapping’s Facebook page.