London National Park City - Voices of Regen #6: Dan Raven-Ellison

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

Words by Jaari Heyes, Photos by Dan Raven-Ellison

“Here’s a vision - we are able to walk between neighbouring settlements, and all cities will be greener, healthier and wilder. Now you decide how you want to key into that vision.”

Dan Raven-Ellison is nothing short of an inspiration. With a natural lust for life and an endeavour to tackle social and environmental issues, he has acquired himself some well earnt titles. As a National Geographic Explorer, guerrilla geographer and a loving parent, Dan’s work has a heavy focus on creating holistic urban environments.

After leading a campaign to see London established as the world’s first National Park City on 22 July 2019, he is now working on ‘Slow Ways’, a network of walking routes that connects all of Great Britain’s towns and cities.

Bringing together communities and the natural world, Dan is platforming urban habitats that need regeneration in a way that we can all comprehend, which is generating a shift in contemporary conservation.

“There are National Parks for every internationally recognised major habitat or landscape, from rainforests to deserts. It baffled me why we would exclude the world's fastest growing habitat, where there are extremely large numbers of mammals - urban areas and cities,” says Dan.

“London is also a biodiversity hotspot! It has 15,000 species of wildlife within the city.”

Without compromising the modern lifestyle of Londoners, the National Park City has the integration of culture and nature at the bedrock of it’s design.

“National Park Cities aren’t just about getting in touch with nature. It’s about culture too. Skateboarding and other urban pursuits are just as important for what it means to be alive in an urban environment. Everyone in that landscape is included, and that’s what makes it a holistic experience,” says Dan.

Dan is also nurturing a timely project, Slow Ways. Intending to improve society’s health wellbeing, as well as reduce human’s environmental footprint, Slow Ways is connecting people back to their roots by showcasing the benefits of walking.

“I pulled together a team of 700 people and we created a network of 100,000 kilometre routes in the UK,” says Dan.

Both the National Park City and Slow Ways are glimpses into what the future could truly be like for us and generations to come. With enough support, these innovative projects have the potential to rapidly evolve and expand. Wouldn’t it be extraordinary if Melbourne became a National Park City? Imagine having a comprehensive walking system that connected all of Metropolitan Melbourne and beyond, perhaps aligned to ancient First Nations songlines?

Dan mentioned something that really stuck with me. It was this concept of living with a conscious effort to conserve the planet for generations to come. We tend to make decisions based on being in the ‘now’, but we forget how they could affect our children and grandchildren.

“We're in a situation where our current generations are being asked nicely if they can make some lifestyle choices, and we seem virtually incapable of making some of these choices,” says Dan.

“We should be thinking as ancestors right now. It’s a powerful way to be thinking.”

Dan is reshaping the way people view urban environments, reminding society that it's not just wild spaces that need regeneration.

“For people to live longer, happier and more fulfilled lives in urban areas, it's vital they make a contribution towards both wildlife and people,” says Dan.

“It’s about every single species.”

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