The Case For Reforesting Our Cities

As climate change hits harder, nature will make towns more resilient

Clive Thompson
6 min readJun 30


Photo by Faith Crabtree on Unsplash

I grew up in a curiously wild city.

When I was a kid in the north suburbs of Toronto in the 70s and 80s, I lived a few blocks from one of the city’s famous ravines.

Toronto, as it turns out, is built on a huge network of these geologic formations. The city sits atop a 42-square mile network of streams and rivers that cut through the city like the fingers on a hand, each one nourishing a thick forest on its banks. If you flew over Toronto and looked down, the amount of greenery is astonishing: It looks like they’ve snuck a city in amongst a massive park. That’s how extensive the ravines are.

At the time, I took the ravine near my house for granted. I didn’t realize how remarkable it was that I could live in a developed suburb — wall-to-wall carpeting, color TV, nearby bus and subway system — and yet be able to walk three blocks and boom, get immersed in nature.

And it was verdant, dank, gothic nature! When I’d walk over to clear my head after doing homework in the evening, the thick canopy of oak and maple trees — with leaves the size of dinner plates — would cradle me in a velvet dusk, and silence all city noise; I’d hear nothing but the call of night birds and the burble of a creek that, during the spring’s snowmelt, would transform into a frothing torrent. Raccoons would peer down from the trees. I was in a city of millions, but alone with my thoughts.

I bring up these memories because I’ve been reading lately about cities and climate change.

As city planners ponder the fate of our cities under global warming, they’re needing to figure out ways to adapt to serious weather challenges . We’re facing down climate shifts that will will tear at the urban fabric.

But what they’re realizing is that, hey, one of the best ways to make our cities more resilient? Make them more wild.

Consider the first big challenge we’re going to have in US cities: They’re going to get hot.

By some projections, American cities will be 8 degrees hotter by 2100, with some feeling more like the Middle East. Part of the reasons cities will get hit so…



Clive Thompson

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”.