‘Guerilla Geographer’ Daniel Raven-Ellison spoke to the Society in the meeting rooms at Allies + Morrison about his vision to turn London into a ‘National Park City’. Ben Taylor of Hawkins Brown went along to listen.
Dan Raven-Ellison is on a mission. Donning an EEG headset, the self-professed ‘guerrilla geographer’ has walked each of the UK’s national parks and many of its cities – including all 32 London boroughs – measuring the emotional affect of each landscape. Crossing fields, parks, motorways, high streets and wildernesses, his brain activity was recorded every step of the way. The conclusion of this techno-psycho-geographical traverse? Urban greenery can be just as stimulating a landscape as a national park – we just don’t realise it.
Opening with the now well-used primer that in 2007 humanity became a majority urban species, the talk began with a barrage of statistics charting the cost of our growing disconnection from the natural world – and its expensive. In lockstep with our increasing urbanity is our torpidity: obesity costs us £900m a year and one in five of the capital’s children are overweight. Meanwhile, mental health conditions cost London £26bn a year. Both of these issues are exacerbated by limited access to outdoor activity (one child in seven hasn’t visited green space of any quality in over a year, we’re told) and could be greatly improved if Londoners had more frequent access to higher-quality outdoor space. We walk our dogs, Dan jabs, because if we don’t they get fat, unhappy and chew up the sofa; why think children should be any different?