What is the possible city, and how do we get there?

Hi there. If you are wondering who writes this, and what it is all about, you will find an attempt at some answers below.

I am Patrick M. Lydon, an ecological artist and regenerative practitioner who grew up in Silicon Valley, studied in Scotland, and has lived in East Asia since around 2011 while researching sustainable, nature-based solutions.

Each week here at The Possible City, I bring you on an urban ecological adventure of sorts, revealing imaginative ideas, ways of thinking, and solutions for equitable, resilient, regenerative cities that you and I actually might want to live in. These are stories not to uphold the system we currently inhabit, but instead to uncover the world we could inhabit. Stories for The Possible City.

Using word, image, and illustration, these stories take us on brief-but-deep dives into real places and real mindsets, where solutions for regenerative cities spring from a combination of logic, innovation, and most of all, a deep awareness of nature and the living world around us.

Join me in re-imagining our cities as nature-connected, ecological places, where people and cities are part of the ecological solution instead of causes of the problem. Readers can come just to be inspired, but I would like to suggest we can also connect and inspire each other as creators, thinkers, and activists. Together we can push our conceptions of what a city can be, and how it can contribute to the well being, not just of humans, but of the earth and all beings.

All content here is independently produced through the support of readers, through individual donations and subscriptions, and also in many non-monetary ways through your feedback, actions, and observations. It all this sounds nice, you can sign up below. You have a choice to become a paying subscriber, or if you are a student, unemployed, or otherwise find the subscription fee prohibitive, you can also subscribe for free.

About The Author: How I Came Here

In 2011, it had been five years since leaving college with a degree in art & design, and a decade since I started working in the Silicon Valley tech world. I had a cushy tech job at the time, writing and illustrating things, drinking free drinks, eating free foods, working some days at coffee shops, living the life I was always told I should want. Then one day I decided to leave all of it. I gave gave up my job, my tiny studio apartment, gave away most of my possessions, became a vagabond, and started to study with the people and places that I thought could help me figure out how human beings can dismount this maddening ride of social and ecological disaster.

Like many of us, I had known the problems, the deep faults, and the other ways for a long time. They were always promptly swept into a dark corner. As that dark corner became pretty well full, it also became impossible for it to escape my gaze in daily life. “At some point,” I thought “there can be no more willful ignorance … the Earth needs us to turn what we know is possible into what we make possible.” For me, that point was some ten years ago.

The years since have been an often amazing, often difficult, insight-filled journey. I left everything I knew behind, and ventured to befriend inspiring individuals around the world, natural farmers, doctors, philosophers, urban planners, artists, mayors, architects, soil scientists, and monks, learning from them, from nature, and enjoying so much kindness and giving, while also enduring times of deep financial poverty, and nights sleeping on the streets.

I would not take back one moment of it.

These years have been a living narrative through hundreds of cities in dozens of countries, where people and organizations in each place have shown very clearly, that tomorrow’s solutions are already available to us right now. Along the way, I earned a Master’s degree studying the intersection of art and sustainable urbanism at The University of Edinburgh, while also co-directing a film with my wife Suhee. The film, Final Straw: Food, Earth, Happiness, has since been screened thousands of times, translated into more than 7 languages, and is part of the award-winning Global Environmental Justice Collection, used in university courses throughout North America. I could have never imagined that one.

During this time, I also began the City as Nature creative ecology project, held dozens of intercultural exhibitions and workshops, opened an ecological art space in Osaka called The Branch, piloted a farm-to-table project called The World’s Slowest Restaurant, and became the arts and culture editor for a New York based NPO called The Nature of Cities. I have since co-curated several international events that brought attendees from more than 80 countries together to co-create more sustainable urban cultures. Some of these experiences formed the basis of a book co-authored with Suhee called A Life Without Anxiety & Competition published by Yeolmaehana Books, as well book chapters like Urban Ecology: Art and the Cultivation of Ecological Mindsets for the Routledge Handbook of Urban Ecology (2nd edition), and articles for publications such as Landscape Architecture Fontiers, YES! Magazine, Kyoto Journal, and Resilience Quarterly.

In all of this, I feel fortunate, that the decision to quit the life that I knew, in favor of the life that I thought was possible has allowed me over time, to facilitate change regarding something that I care deeply about.

I do this all because I care deeply about humanity. I do this because I deeply love this earth. I do this because I believe that cities where both humans and nature can flourish are not only possible, but achievable.

And I have a feeling I’m not the only one.

All stories are available for free by subscribing. However, all of this — from the research and writing and editing, to the illustrations — takes considerable time and effort to produce. If you want to support something independent and real, then please consider supporting this project as a paying subscriber. As mentioned, if you are a student, unemployed, or otherwise find the subscription fee prohibitive, I welcome you to use the free subscription as needed.

A free subscription gives you:

  • Full access to the newsletter and article archive.

  • Never miss an update. Every edition goes directly to your inbox.

  • Be part of a community working towards regenerative cities.

Paying for a monthly or yearly subscription gives you:

  • The exact same things as a free subscription, plus…

  • The satisfaction of knowing you help this little corner of resistance to survive.

I hope you will join me on this journey, as a reader, as a supporter, as a fellow regenerative thinker, or just as a person who wants to see humanity push ourselves into a possible future. To join (free or paid) use the subscribe link below. I send a big welcome to you.

Some Links

If you are curious, here are some places in the internet land with more information about the writing, organizing, art, film, and various other projects I am involved in:

Start Reading The Possible City

The Possible City
The Pollinator's Breakfast
He was directing the traffic of pollinators on the morning that we first met. They fly in, one by one each morning, through the garden, into the doors of the sunroom. He greets each of them, not with a fly swatter, but with a calm nod and smile. “There are five different species this morning. Not a bad group on the verge of winter. But this one, the littl…
Read more

What is Substack?

Substack are the company who built this platform. They help writers focus on doing what they do best. To find out more, visit Substack.com.