What is the possible city, and how do we get there?
Hi there! I am Patrick M. Lydon, an ecological artist and regenerative practitioner who grew up in Silicon Valley, and has lived in East Asia since around 2011. I run a creative urban ecology studio called City as Nature, and have written about cities for books like the Routledge Handbook of Urban Ecology, Nature-Based Solutions for Cities, BiodiverCities by 2030, and publications like The Nature of Cities, Landscape Architecture Frontiers, YES! Magazine and Kyoto Journal.
The writings here at The Possible City however, are a little different.
Every fortnight, I publish a new illustrated story, exploring the kinds of equitable, resilient, regenerative cities that you and I might actually want to live in. These stories are not about the cities we currently inhabit, but rather, about uncovering the cities we could inhabit.
Thank you for joining me, on these peeks into possible urban futures.
This project is independently produced through the support of readers. To join, sign up below or just start reading the stories.
More About The Author
Or, read on for a bit of a backstory…
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.
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.
Most of us care very deeply about humanity, and most also have some form of deep love for this earth. When it comes to talking about “cities and nature” however, we find it hard to imagine how each can support the other.
I want to help us imagine.
Subscribing to The Possible City
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. If you are a student, unemployed, or otherwise find the subscription fee prohibitive, you can use the free subscription option.
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.
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:
personal arts projects - pmlydon.com
City as Nature, creative ecology lab - cityasnature.org
Final Straw: Food, Earth, Happiness, documentary - finalstraw.org
Start Reading The Possible City
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.