Category:

Greenspace / Human Health

THE STORY OF GUICHON CREEK: “Fifty years ago, few people felt that it was worth the trouble or the cost to try and bring degraded urban streams and rivers back to health. I believed very differently and would say, we must try. We can turn around almost anything when there is a will, a plan is in place, and there is commitment,” stated Mark Angelo – conservationist, author of The Little Creek That Could, and founder of BC Rivers Day and World Rivers Day


“I am such a believer in engaging the broader community as best we can. Going back 50 years ago to the 1970s when I was first starting as a streamkeeper, it was a lonely undertaking. Streamkeepers were few in number. One of the great steps forward that I have seen over the decades is that now there are many many streamkeepers and there streamkeeper groups attached to virtually every stream in the Lower Mainland. These volunteers put in thousands of hours, keep an eye on local waterways, profile issues when they arise, and approach local governments to help them deal with and correct those issues,” stated Mark Angelo.

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WHAT IS GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE, REALLY: “Cities are increasingly incorporating ideas for ‘green infrastructure’ into their planning, but what they mean by that can be unclear and inconsistent within and across cities,” wrote Maria Rachal, editor of Smart Cities Dive, in her article about recently published findings from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies (January 2022)


City planners often fail to clearly define “green infrastructure,” although they tend to favor hydrological or stormwater concepts in such projects, according to a study by the New York-based Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. The report calls for a clearer and more comprehensive definition as part of a larger project assessing equity in cities’ ecological services. The empirical study is the first of its kind. It is part of a multiyear project assessing green infrastructure’s role as “a universal good.”

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WHY NEW YORK CITY IS UNEARTHING A BROOK IT BURIED A CENTURY AGO: “We need to be coming up with more innovative solutions that will ensure communities are resilient in the face of climate change,” stated Jenny Hoffner, a vice president for conservation strategies for American Rivers (December 2021)


The $US130M plan to daylight Tibbetts Brook would be one of New York City’s most ambitious green infrastructure projects. The brook would be rerouted above ground for one mile — including along a former railroad line that would be turned into a new greenway — before being sent back underground for a half mile in a new dedicated pipe to the Harlem River. “Restored waterways serve as a kind of natural infrastructure in cities, bringing benefits. Building for the storm of today won’t really work anymore,” stated Jenny Hoffner.

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“Deepening children’s interaction with nature addresses the issue of environmental generational amnesia. The solution we are putting forward is, in effect, ‘one small interaction with nature at a time’,” stated Thea Weiss, University of Washington


“Nature Language is a term introduced by the researchers as a means of speaking about deep and meaningful patterns of human interaction with nature. Ideas related to ‘big nature’ and ‘nature language’ can help mitigate the problem of environmental generational amnesia. Since lack of interaction with nature has partly caused the problem, deepening children’s interaction with nature is proposed as a way to help solve it. Children’s educational environments –and entire cities — can be designed with this goal in mind,” stated Thea Weiss.

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TREES, HEALTH AND WELLBEING: “The urban forest needs to be designed as a first principle, part of the critical infrastructure of the whole city, not just as a cosmetic afterthought,” wrote Professor Alan Simpson, Leeds Beckett University


“The scale and speed of urbanisation has created significant environmental and health problems for urban dwellers. These problems are often made worse by a lack of contact with the natural world,” stated Alan Simpson. “The creation of urban forests will make cities worth living in, able to function and support their populations: Treetopias. Our urban forest can give us the spaces and places to help manage our mental health and improve our physical health.”

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GLOBAL CRISIS REPRESENTS AN OPPORTUNITY: “The 2020 coronavirus pandemic may lead to a deeper understanding of the ties that bind us all on a global scale and could help us get to grips with the largest public health threat of the century, the climate crisis,” wrote Arthur Wyns, Climate Change & Health Advisor to World Health Organization


“The global health crisis we find ourselves in has forced us to dramatically change our behaviour in order to protect ourselves and those around us, to a degree most of us have never experienced before. This temporary shift of gears could lead to a long-term shift in old behaviours and assumptions, which could lead to a public drive for collective action and effective risk management. Even though climate change presents a slower, more long-term health threat, an equally dramatic and sustained shift in behaviour will be needed to prevent irreversible damage,” stated Arthur Wyns.

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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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