“Nature loves to hide,” observed ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus roughly 2,500 years ago, and the worldwide “COVID-19” pandemic that followed the emergence of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 at the end of 2019 has served as a bracing reminder of humanity’s incomplete understanding of the natural world. The COVID-19 crisis has turned out to be more than a public health emergency rooted in natural causes, for the pandemic has revealed significant weaknesses in humancreated institutions, including those that govern and influence the urban areas in which most Americans now live.
Of course, with crisis comes opportunity, and it seems highly plausible that the institutional failures that fueled the calamity of COVID- 19 contain within them the seeds of healthier, more resilient communities. The hope and expectation that it is possible for humans to learn from the past and build a better world inspired the William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review to sponsor a symposium on “Sustainability in the City.” Conducted virtually in February 2021, due to the ongoing pandemic, the symposium brought together law students, policy experts, and scholars with expertise in law, ethics, architecture, urban planning, sociology, business organizations, and economics. The result was a series of rich, fruitful exchanges about institutional design and the interactions of humans with nature, as well as four highly insightful and far-reaching articles, which are published in this issue.
The articles produced for the symposium on “Sustainability in the City” address a range of important and timely issues, including the responsible use of novel technologies in the design and construction of “smart” cities, the challenges and opportunities afforded by innovations in urban agricultural practices, how cities can further biodiversity, and social justice considerations in the face of inequalities in “green and blue” (that is, biotic and aquatic) infrastructure. All offer distinct perspectives on the important role played by cities in preserving, modifying, and making constructive use of the natural world so as to ensure a sustainable future for later generations. The articles also offer a number of thoughtful proposals pertaining to legal reforms and public policy initiatives, as well as ideas for additional research and inquiry.