Ready for more-than-human? Measuring urban residents’ willingness to coexist with animals
In the context of rapid urbanisation, geographers are calling for embracing non-humans as urban co-inhabitants. But if animals and plants are seen as ‘out of place’, sharing urban space can lead to wildlife conflicts. We therefore need to better understand residents’ willingness to coexist if we are to work towards more-than-human cities. This study quantitatively compared residents’ preferences toward sharing their neighbourhood, as well as perceptions of belonging across urban green space in two geographically and culturally distinct cities: Brisbane, Australia, and Sapporo, Japan. Results suggest that geographical and cultural context alongside educational attainment and age influenced respondents’ willingness to coexist, but not sex and income. Mapping respondents’ preferences for animals in their neighbourhood revealed four groups of animals along two axes – global-local and wanted-unwanted. These arose from the way animals contested the human notions of control over urban space. As spaces where animals belong in cities, most respondents chose informal green space (e.g. vacant lots, brownfields) after forests and bushland. Drawing upon recent theoretical and empirical research on liminal urban spaces, I argue that such informal green space can offer ‘provisional arrangements’ which allow for conciliatory engagements with non-humans. I thus propose informal green spaces as territories of encounter – a possible path towards more-than-human cities. Finally, I discuss some implications for planning and management of interspecies interactions.
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