Category:

Greenspace / Human Health

DESIGN WITH NATURE: Stefano Boeri Architetti’s Smart Forest City plan for Cancun, Mexico, takes the concept of a green city to entirely new levels


“Indeed the effort of the smart Forest City of Cancun could make our world a better place, reducing significantly the negative impacts on the environment, possibly being a pioneer for a new kind of human settlement, a man made city for nature and biodiversity,” said Stefano Boeri. “”Thanks to the new public parks and private gardens, thanks to the green roofs and to the green facades, the areas actually occupied will be given back by nature through a perfect balance between the amount of green areas and building footprint.”

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RENATURING CITIES: “The public realm must increasingly be where we get the benefits of nature. This has historically been a ‘blind spot’ for city planners, urban designers and engineers,” stated Thami Croeser, spatial analyst at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and part of an international project team advising the European Union on planning for urban greening


“As cities have developed, we’ve been focused on transport, housing, industry and infrastructure – nature has been an afterthought, as cities get a handful of parks and street trees at best. In the process, we have often produced very grey urban environments that get hot, flood easily and are unattractive and unhealthy to spend time in. We have a lot of retrofitting ahead of us, especially as the climate becomes more extreme. The good news is the nature-based solutions (NBS) industry is maturing and there are more and more ways to help our cities go green,” stated Thami Croeser.

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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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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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FLASHBACK TO 1969: “The Cuyahoga River caught fire 50 years ago. It inspired a movement,” wrote Tim Folger in a National Geographic retrospective


“On June 22, 1969, there hadn’t been any fish—or any other living things—in its waters for decades. On that day the river was burning,” wrote Tim Folger. “It would turn out to be a cleansing fire, one that became a potent symbol for the nascent environmental movement. Within a few years the U.S. had enacted laws that would have a dramatic impact on the environment, including the Cuyahoga and other rivers. The fire started around noon, when a spark from a train crossing a bridge fell into the toxic stew of industrial waste on the river’s surface.”

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URBAN TREE CANOPY INTERCEPTS RAINWATER: What does a community named Tree City USA for 25 years running, brimming with 13,000 trees need?


“Walla Walla City Council has agreed to tap into the city’s stormwater utility fund — following a trend set by a number of Pacific Northwest communities — to pay for upkeep of street trees and other ‘green infrastructure,.” wrote Dian Ver Valen. “The ordinance makes the city’s urban forest and green infrastructure, including dozens of green basins and swales that work as bio-filters for stormwater throughout the city, an official part of the stormwater system.”

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DESIGN WITH NATURE: “We lost sight on how to work with nature. Using natural systems, however, it is possible to help cities adapt to climate change,” says Dr. Laura Wendling, an urban scientist at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland


“We know nature-based solutions are really good at helping cities. But) we don’t have a really good handle on how to best place nature-based solutions to get the greatest benefit,” said Laura Wendling. “Ultimately we need to have cities that are more liveable, more resilient to environment and social perturbations and nature-based solutions provide us that buffering capacity (to cope),” Dr. Wendling is the technical coordinator of UNaLab, a project looking to get the information needed to convince more cities to greenlight nature-based solutions.

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CHILDREN’S AFFILIATIONS WITH NATURE: Structure, Development, and the Problem of Environmental Generational Amnesia – studies by Peter Kahn, Professor of Psychology at University of Washington, describe why each generation regards a progressively poorer natural world as normal


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? The foregoing are questions that are addressed by Peter Kahn in his research into environmental moral conceptions and values. “My research findings articulate what may be one of the most pressing and unrecognized problems of our age – the problem of environmental generational amnesia,” wrote Peter Kahn.

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