HOW GREEN IS THE METRO VANCOUVER REGION, REALLY: “By improving overall mental and physical health, urban greening also improves people’s resilience against extreme heat and wildfire smoke caused by climate change,” stated Melissa Lem, a family physician and president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (August 2022)
Note to Reader:
Metro Vancouver wants 40 per cent of the region’s urban areas to be shaded by trees by 2050, a target the regional authority called “ambitious but achievable.” That represents an increase from the current tree canopy, which currently averages 32 per cent, according to a paper received by the Metro Vancouver Regional District board in May 2022. The paper is part of a regional road map to address climate change.
This was the follow-up to an article in May 2022, titled Greening of Metro Vancouver ‘ambitious but achievable,’ report suggests. The article noted that several cities in the Pacific Northwest have set canopy cover targets of 30 per cent. By comparison, only a handful of Metro municipalities — including Lions Bay, West Vancouver and UBC — meet or exceed the current 32 per cent average, according to the most recent regional data, which dates back 2014.
“There is increasing evidence that trees and other greenspaces offer significant health and well-being benefits, as well, including reduced deaths from cardiovascular disease and improved mental health outcomes,” says Melissa Lem, a family physician and president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.
“Research shows that just sitting in nature for 15 minutes can significantly drop cortisol, the primary stress hormone, while sitting on a city street doesn’t improve it at all. Studies from Australia showed that people living in neighbourhoods with high levels of tree cover have lower risks of diabetes, heart disease, psychological distress and loneliness.”
Green for wellbeing – science tells us how to design urban spaces that heal us
“Research has found that people in urban areas who live closest to the greatest ‘green space’ are significantly less likely to suffer poor mental health. Urban designers thus have a significant role to play in lowering rates of mental illness,” stated Zoe Myers, Australian Urban Design Research Centre.
“Successful parks and urban green spaces encourage us to linger, to rest, to walk for longer. That, in turn, provides the time to maximise restorative mental benefits. Compare this to urban areas that employ creative uses of incidental nature to capture attention and offer genuine interaction.”
Peter Kahn, Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington, equates the Shifting Baseline Syndrome phenomenonto Environmental Generational Amnesia. Peter Kahn calls our environmental generational amnesia “one of the central psychological problems of our lifetime,” because it obscures the magnitude of so many concrete problems.
“People take the natural environment they encounter during childhood as the norm against which they measure environmental degradation later in their life. Each generation takes that degraded condition as the non-degraded condition, as the normal experience,” explains Peter Kahn.
“Since the problem of environmental generation amnesia has its genesis in childhood, I suggest that childhood is a good place to start solving the problem.”
Peter Kahn is the author of “Technological Nature” and the founder of the Human Interactions with Nature and Technological Systems Laboratory in Seattle, Washington.
How do children reason about environmental problems? Are there universal features in children’s environmental conceptions and values? How important is it that children and young adults experience natural wonders? Finally, what happens to children’s environmental commitments and sensibilities when they grow up in environmentally degraded conditions? These are questions that are addressed by Peter Kahn in his research into environmental moral conceptions and values.