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‘Design With Nature’ to Create Liveable Communities

SUBURBS CAN HELP CITIES IN FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE: “The growth of the suburban footprint of cities in Australia and Canada tests the limits of the sustainability of our present way of living in terms of energy use, transportation and provision of utilities,” state Paul Maginn and Roger Keil


“The edges of cities around the world are being devastated by fires and floods. It’s drawing attention to suburban residents and the role they’re playing in exacerbating their exposure to climate change risks. But instead of focusing on the suburban way of life alone, planners and policy-makers need to focus their attention and actions on what holds it all together: the ‘brutalscape’, which is comprised of the infrastructures that enable suburban life,” wrote Roger Keil.

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GREEN SPACE AND HUMAN HEALTH: “Urban designers have a significant role to play in lowering rates of mental illness, and the data on how nature affects our brains are central to changing the ways we design,” stated Dr. Zoe Myers, Australian Urban Design Research Centre


“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. “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.”

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‘BLUE’ SPACE AND HUMAN HEALTH: “My colleagues and I are eyeing what planners call the water-centric city, or ‘sponge city’. Blue urban design – alongside green – may well be an agent for promoting mental health and not just an amenity,” stated Jenny Roe, University of Virginia


“Officials are increasingly recognizing that integrating nature into cities is an effective public health strategy to improve mental health. Doctors around the world now administer ‘green prescriptions’ – where patients are encouraged to spend time in local nature spaces,” wrote Jenny Roe. “Much of this research to date has focused on the role of green space in improving mental health. But what about ‘blue’ space – water settings? A few studies have shown that water bodies score just as well – if not better.”

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GREEN SPACE AND HUMAN HEALTH: “Urban greening is emerging as a key part of the solution to some of our major health and environmental challenges,” stated Sara Barron, lead author for a collaborative effort by Australian, Canadian and American researchers


“Cities around the world are facing major challenges. Industrialised nations are experiencing epidemics of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardio-vascular disease and dementia, and it would be all too easy to give up hope of finding solutions. But there is positive news,” said Dr. Sara Barron. “A growing body of research reveals that spending time outdoors in and around trees, parks and gardens can boost our physical and mental health and help prevent a wide range of diseases.”

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URBAN FORESTRY AND CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION: “As more cities begin to link their current climate change activities to the benefits of carbon sequestration and storage through the management of urban forests, the climate benefits provided by trees will only continue to increase,” stated Dr. Lauren Cooper, Forest Carbon and Climate Program, Michigan State University


“Why aren’t more cities explicitly linking the CO2 sequestration benefits with their urban forests? With varying city size and capacity, the answer is not simple. While there are examples of cities incorporating forest carbon storage and sequestration policies into their planning, these are limited, and often only in our largest cities,” stated Lauren Cooper. “Many cities are not quite comfortable taking a leap into climate mitigation claims and calculations.”

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BUILDING RAIN GARDENS IN THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY ERA: “Community engagement and green infrastructure are powerful partners for building climate resiliency. Our vision is to scale up this work and encourage our partners to embrace this winning partnership as significant levers for change,” stated Dr. Joanna Ashworth, Project Director, North Shore Rain Gardens Project (Metro Vancouver)


“One rain garden does not seem like much in the face of so much road water runoff that is sending containments into our salmon bearing streams and rivers, but scaled up, green infrastructure like rain gardens capture and filter large volumes of runoff, thereby reducing flow and pollutants and better protecting species. These green approaches are also more cost effective than replacing municipal storm water infrastructure: and they provide opportunities for community interaction,” stated Joanna Ashworth.

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BOREAL FORESTS: “Reversing land degradation can provide over one-third of the climate mitigation required by 2030 to remain below 2°C increase in average global temperatures,” wrote Catherine Benson Wahlen, International Institute for Sustainable Development


“During the Fifth European Forest Week and Forêt2019, country representatives came together to discuss forest restoration and cooperation on boreal forests,” wrote Catherine Benson Wahlen. “Country representatives from the Caucasus and Central Asia agreed on a regional greening strategy focused on landscape restoration and greening infrastructure. According to the UNECE, this region’s ecosystems and landscapes have suffered from excessive extraction and waste of water, deforestation and pollution from mining, resulting in desertification, land erosion and soil loss.”

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TREED: WALKING IN CANADA’S URBAN FORESTS > “My message is … pay attention to the trees. Realize you’re living alongside these amazing old beings. But also … let’s maybe work more to protect them,” says author Ariel Gordon


“Winnipeg is my home. And I’ve come to see the trees in Winnpeg’s urban forest as inhabitants of the city just as much as people are. What’s more, I think of the trees as relatives,” says Ariel Gordon. “Most people know that an urban forest provides environmental benefits to city dwellers, including energy savings, improving air quality, sequestering carbon and helping to manage storm water. But what they don’t realize is that trees are also a vital component in improving public health, most notably mental health.”

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THE POTENTIAL FOR GLOBAL FOREST COVER: “Our study provides a benchmark for a global action plan, showing where new forests can be restored around the globe,” reports Jean-Francois Bastin, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (July 2019)


“We mapped the global potential tree coverage to show that 4.4 billion hectares of canopy cover could exist under the current climate,” wrote Jean-Francois Bastin. “Excluding existing trees and agricultural and urban areas, we found that there is room for an extra 0.9 billion hectares of canopy cover, which could store 205 gigatonnes of carbon in areas that would naturally support woodlands and forests. This highlights global tree restoration as our most effective climate change solution to date.”

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COLOUR COORDINATING: “It’s time to design smarter 21st century systems that restore and maintain green infrastructure as a critical component of urban resilience and vitality,” says Jan Cassin, Water Initiative Director, Forest Trends Foundation (September 2019)


“How can we move from viewing green infrastructure in terms of “nice to have” extras, to putting green infrastructure at the center of how we value and invest in the infrastructure we need for vibrant, resilient cities? A number of innovations can move us in this direction,” states Jan Cassin. “Cities and their utilities should embrace natural asset management. In the same way that well-managed utilities strategically assess their gray assets, we can evaluate our green infrastructure base.”

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