Almost all humans can relate to and understand the amazement we find ourselves feeling when admiring the grandness of an entire city. It’s almost impossible to fully appreciate a city at any given moment, and that is part of the awe we find ourselves in. The constant movement, development and stimulation that cities bring with them gives humans an overall sense of what we are capable of accomplishing. Cities can be better understood, more or less, as a work of art that is ever-changing. This constant growth of urbanization has created priceless benefits and comforts, but as well has created modern difficulties that are reflective of our modern times: complex.
People find it quite easy to forget, and appreciate, the necessity for basic, primitive and natural art while being at the center of an advanced piece of art, and this is when and where urban green space is called into action.
Benefits of Green Space
Urban green space is a simple tool used to combat the modern issues that cities bring with them. Green spaces have been shown in research to improve the physical and mental health of residents. Communities that have trouble-free access to nature (green space) within their local metropolitan areas have shown a positive correlation with physical activity and community engagement, including social contact, which relieves psychophysiological stress, both being key elements of a healthy lifestyle.
Not only does adding more green space into urban and developed areas benefit residents’ health levels and city aesthetics, but it is also a bonus for the overall ecological health of a city’s environment. Studies have shown green spaces reduce the impact on urban environmental issues such as air pollution, noise pollution, and ambient temperature.
On top of the environmental and health benefits that green spaces provide, cities that have already been imposing and evenly distributing green spaces into their modern infrastructure have seen a reduction in income-related inequalities related to healthcare costs.
Value of Green Spaces
This urban ecological perspective has gradually been adapted into cities around the world, ensuring the green infrastructure that they are pushing for is to be incorporated as they develop. This factor in city planning has even made its way into European Union (E.U.) policy, with green spaces and infrastructure now being required within the E.U., aiming to push union-wide sustainability and green city planning, especially within less developed areas.
Also, China’s growing urban districts are being encouraged to keep in mind the importance of residents’ access to green spaces, for, as they now understand, in the long run it is much easier to initially include green spaces in new cities, rather than being cornered into introducing green spaces after city development and then struggle to find enough open space.
The value of bringing nature back into cities and industrialized areas is not anything new to city planners and, in fact, has a history within Europe. Around the mid-nineteenth century was when European city leaders started incorporating nature into their cities to counter the negative effects of urbanization, noticing the importance and benefits that their residents (and the city itself) gained with easy access to green spaces.
The historical value of green space has led researchers to acknowledge that this is a natural part of the development within industrialized and urban areas around the globe, which has resulted in city officials and planners fully understanding the utility that this easy tool has for their complex artwork.
Both the quality and quantity of urban green spaces within a city are important when considering value. This is something that must be, as well, addressed as we consider a change concerning green space. Creating more quantity of green space for the public to access is one thing; however, the quality of that green space must still be kept in mind. With higher quality green space comes a better chance of city-policy to protect, properly maintain and expand upon the valued green spaces for future generations and communities to benefit from, as opposed to installing short-term, undervalued green spaces to local communities, which would likely result in that green space to be industrialized in the future, making the impact eventually null.
We Are The Solution
All of us are residents somewhere, and with that power, we should push for our local policymakers to create policy and law in which fitting and protection of urban green spaces will be ensured for all, and especially underserved, communities to access and enjoy.
To start, urban areas need a reference point to better understand their current conditions and can then realistically set goals for green space and infrastructure. The European Environmental Agency (EEA) has devised such a system for us to utilize and model after. This was created with the intent to help their cities understand what positive green infrastructure indicators are, which ultimately helps guide their cities to realistically create goals and policy for green infrastructure and spaces. Additionally, the EEA has created an interactive map for cities to visually measure their overall distribution of green space in their urban areas, to allow for a quick understanding of their current conditions.
On top of this, we should push for private entities to take action and open an opportunity for them to invest back into the community via tax breaks and cuts for established corporate buildings, locally owned businesses, and privately-owned spaces that increase their green infrastructure and/or create public sections or parts of their estate for public access.
Not only would this allow for a more healthy and beautiful world, and secure the future of green spaces for city residents, but this is also an opportunity for these higher developed cities to pioneer a sustainable future and promote green practices for other cities and developing areas in the world to look towards and model after.
Nature grounds us humans. It has always been necessary for humans and life, and green spaces are the answer for us to “get back to basics” in our not-so-basic world, and ultimately, it is necessary for sustainable living in a wasteful ambiance such as a city.
We’d love to hear your thoughts! What’s your favorite green space in your city? How are you incorporating more green into your space? Leave us a comment below.