Whereas in most countries the issues around sustainable development are well acknowledged at all institutional levels, the question of the place of nature in towns and cities still remains a crucial element to be confronted by those who conceive and craft our urban policies. And yet, as Jean-Pierre Lévy and Isabelle Hajek stress in this article, combining the two terms “nature” and “urban” may seem paradoxical, to say the least –and quite often is so. Is the idea of nature in the city purely utopian then, in the sense that the city might be said by definition to be “anti-nature”? Precisely because of the currently prevalent context of the pursuit of sustainable development, are there not future prospects for urban nature? This is the question Lévy and Hajek analyse here, after first examining the way city-nature relations have been viewed historically; they emphasize the expectations associated with sustainable development and the renewed interest in working out how to reintroduce nature into the urban environment and overcome the paradoxes. Though often idealized and as yet still poorly defined, urban nature remains a dynamic concept which, in its way, also feeds into visions of urban reconfiguration.
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