London is one of the biggest, busiest cities on Earth. The 2000-year-old metropolis is home to modern skyscrapers, historic architecture, and more than 8.6 million residents spread across 33 boroughs. But if London mayor Sadiq Khan has his way, the UK capital's reputation as a strictly urban center will soon change. As the Independent reports, London has elected to be the world's first-ever National Park City.
The title National Park City may sound like an oxymoron; national parks are often natural areas protected from human development. But a new initiative from the National Park City Foundation called the International Charter for National Park Cities (NPC) aims to apply many of the same qualities of national parks—like well-managed green spaces, clean air, and diverse wildlife—to the world's largest cities.
On Monday, July 22, Mayor Khan announced that London would be the first city to sign on. He said in a tweet: "A cleaner, greener London is central to my vision for our city—and we're taking bold action to ensure people, places are nature are better connected."
The main way city officials plan to achieve that goal is by adding more green space. London is already 33 percent green public space [PDF]. By connecting public parks, adding green roofs to existing buildings, and expanding private backyards and gardens, the city will work to achieve 50 percent green space by 2050. Not only would the new natural areas improve the quality of life of London's residents, but they would also support the city's animal population, which includes 15,000 species today.
London is the first of what the National Park City Foundation hopes will be many cities to join the charter. The goal is to bring 25 cities on board by 2025, with Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Glasgow already in talks to gain National Park City status.
Events around the world have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but spring is progressing as scheduled. If you're not lucky enough to see flowers blooming from your window or on safe walks outdoors, you can still watch them from your home.
Web cameras installed around the world are recording flower blooms in real time for the internet to see. Botanical events that would attract huge crowds in a typical year can now be viewed in solitude. If you're missing the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., you can tune into the Bloom Cam, which provides a live look at the National Mall's Tidal Basin as it bursts into color.
The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is closed to the public, but its annual orchid show has been reimagined as a virtual tour. In the video below, senior orchid curator Marc Hachadourian takes viewers through the living exhibit and shares facts about how it was made.
Virtual flower watching is also an opportunity to see blooms on the other side of the globe. Japan's famous sakura trees are now accessible through livestreams.
Your digital nature tours don't need to end with the spring flower blooms. Here are five national parks you can explore online.
A scene from Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit (2018).
Markham Street Films
By now, you've probably already binged Netflix's bewilderingly bonkers docuseries Tiger King (2020). If you're ready to dive deeper into the animal kingdom, there are plenty more documentaries out there. From wildcats to whales, these 10 films will take you on a cinematic adventure around the world, introducing you to captivating creatures and the people who love them.
1. The Tigers of Scotland (2017)
The Tigers of Scotland (2017) brings viewers as up close and personal as possible with a small but mighty feline: the Scottish wildcat. The film delves into the efforts to conserve the disappearing Highland tiger, as well as the history and mythology surrounding the UK’s only “big cat.”
This 2017 Disneynature documentary will transport you to the world’s highest plateau in search of a family of snow leopards. These cats are famously tough to find, so Ghost of the Mountains offers viewers behind-the-scenes footage of what it’s like to track the elusive beasts.
3. Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit (2018)
This delightful documentary takes you deep into the competitive cat show circuit. Both charming and at times cutthroat, the film brings viewers on a journey to see which of the many cool cats and kittens will be crowned Canada's top cat.
Follow along as a National Geographic explorer and photographer embeds with a white wolf pack in the high Arctic. These wild wolves aren't used to seeing people, giving the filmmakers—and audience—an intimate window into the pack's daily lives and familial bonds. In addition to showcasing captivating footage of the animals, the three-part docuseries also features sweeping views of the starkly beautiful Ellesmere Island.
This docuseries, which highlights various dogs and their humans from around the world, celebrates the bond between people and their pups. But it’s more than just a montage of feel-good moments about humankind’s best friend: Each episode tells a broader tale about the human condition, crafting an emotional narrative that pulls at the heartstrings like a puppy tugging on a toy.
These birds will put your dad moves to shame. Watch the male avian performers shimmy, shake, and flash their feathers while attempting to woo their female mates. The documentary, narrated by Stephen Fry, offers a colorful look at the wonderfully wacky world of bird mating rituals.
This documentary follows Hatidze Muratova, one of the last wild beekeepers in a remote village in North Macedonia. She lives with her ailing mother, nurturing a traditional way of beekeeping passed down through the generations and striking a balance between making a living and maintaining ecological balance. But everything changes when a nomadic family settles nearby, threatening Muratova’s way of life. The resulting story is both sweet and stinging.
This 2014 documentary highlights the park rangers fighting to protect the Congo’s Virunga National Park, home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla. As poaching and oil exploration threaten the park, the rangers and conservationists risk their lives to guard the rare creatures that inhabit it.
In the 1950s, Harry deLayer bought Snowman, a run-down plow horse destined for slaughter, for just $80 at an auction. Within months, the two were taking the show jumping circuit by storm, launching both horse and rider to new heights. This documentary tells the story of the friendship the two developed, and chronicles their lives both in and out of the competitive spotlight.
The waters around Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest are a haven for whales, who feed and find refuge in the quiet channels. With stunning visuals, this documentary highlights the tension of a community’s push to protect its wild places against the pressures of the ever-encroaching natural gas industry.