A high-rise building with plantings spilling down from balconies.
Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

Tools for rewilding

From asphalt jungle to digital preserve.

How likely? How soon? What impact?

The lockdowns of 2020 emptied cities and towns of people and vehicles for weeks and months at a time. Flora and fauna moved into the vacuum. This surprising development crystallized a growing movement. "Rewilding" aims to combat climate change and improve well-being through a deep and lasting reweaving of the natural and built parts of the urban environment.

Urban tech is already playing a big role in rewilding's present, and that role will only expand in the future. Collaboration technologies provide the means to identify challenges and opportunities, design interventions, and organize collective action. Pervasive sensing and abundant computation provide the raw data on interaction in cities between people, the built environment, and nature—and the models to analyze and reengineer them.

But as the urban-ecology nexus grows, old conflicts over urban space are being remapped onto this new frontier. Ambitious targets for the reduction of carbon emissions are driving interest in quantifying the value of natural assets and the ecosystem services they provide in urban areas. Yet as efforts to make "natural capital" legible to the financial system pick up steam, they will meet and equally well-equipped grassroots movement for rewilding that aims to use tech to produce a more communal set of value streams at the urban-nature interface.


Signals are evidence of possible futures found in the world today—technologies, products, services, and behaviors that we expect are already here but could become more widespread tomorrow.