Category:

Greenspace / Human Health

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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WHAT IS NEEDED TO THRIVE IN THE 21st CENTURY: When nature is used as a classroom, it has a positive effect on learning among children in at least eight different ways, according to a new survey of 100s of research studies


“It is time to take nature seriously as a resource for learning. In fact, the trend of increasing indoor instruction in hopes of maximizing standardized test performance may be doing more harm than good,” states Professor Frances ‘Ming’ Kuo. “We found strong evidence that time in nature has a rejuvenating effect on attention; relieves stress; boosts self-discipline; increases physical activity and fitness; and promotes student self-motivation, enjoyment, and engagement. And all of these have been shown to improve learning.”

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TIME IN NATURE LOWERS STRESS: “Healthcare practitioners can use our results as an evidence-based rule of thumb on what to put in a nature-pill prescription,” stated Professor MaryCarolHunter, research lead at University of Michigan


“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us,” says MaryCarolHunter. “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature. It provides the first estimates of how nature experiences impact stress levels.”

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Bringing Nature Back to the Urban Core – a photo feature on three US cities that are seeking to restore their connection to nature by reclaiming land for green space


Frederick Law Olmsted understood nature’s ability to rejuvenate the mind and body. One of the principal designers of Central Park in New York, he took pains to replicate the gentle beauty he saw in European parks that blended trees and shrubs, streams and bridges. “The park throughout is a single work of art,” he wrote. The relationship between humans and nature improves mental health and promotes prosocial behavior. But as cities grow, green space is squeezed out. Community leaders are finding ways to restore some of the balance.

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INSPIRED BY STEFANO BOERI’S VISION FOR “FOREST CITIES”: Toronto’s Newest Skyscaper Will Be Completely Covered In Trees


Toronto’s urban canopy is already home to over 10 million trees, which currently envelops 26% of the city’s surface area. Mayor John Tory, however, has bigger plans for Ontario’s capital; he wants to transform Toronto into a waking ecological metropolis. A local architecture firm is helping Tory achieve his goal, in a very cool, but unconventional manner. Toronto’s version of the vertical forest may be standing as early as late 2020, proving that green space is not confined to the ground.

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THE ECONOMY REALLY NEEDS MORE TREES BECAUSE: “There’s growing recognition of the crucial role of urban green spaces in helping reduce chronic, non-communicable physical and mental health problems,” wrote Ross Gittins, Economics Editor for the Sydney Morning Herald


“Academics at the universities of Melbourne and Tasmania examined 2.2 million messages on Twitter and found that tweets made from parks contained more positive content – and less negativity – than tweets coming from built-up areas,” wrote Ross Gittins. “Why are people in parks likely to be happier? Because parks help them to recover from the stress and mental strain of living in cities, and provide a place to exercise, meet other people or attend special events.”

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Improving Wellbeing through Urban Nature: “We aim to find out more about how Sheffield’s natural environment can improve the health & wellbeing of city residents” – Dr Anna Jorgensen, Lead Researcher


“My research interests focus around the ways in which different people experience, interact with, understand and represent landscape; and the desire to see a more holistic and environmentally friendly approach to planning and designing urban greenspace and green structure,” stated Anna Jorgensen. “My aim is often to challenge professional ideas about what might be publicly acceptable, and to test/explore established theoretical frameworks from different academic disciplines that are relevant to my field of enquiry.”

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