Unraveling Urban Life and Space
There’s never been a better time to keep nature-health benefits at your fingertips if you're in the business of shaping outdoor spaces or activities for people. Health is on people's minds like never before as we fight COVID-19. You know all about nature-health benefits because you took my class, right? Even if you didn't (or if you can't remember everything), here’s a two-minute pocket reference, yours to bookmark and share.
Specific to the pandemic, peaceful natural areas, especially vegetation and water, can help with several of those pesky underlying conditions that make us high-risk for infection, serious illness, and death. Research has shown that being around such areas measurably lowers stress indicators in the body, like cortisol levels and blood pressure. Other studies have found associations between nature exposure and lower rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and inflammation. Some studies have even found improvement in immune system function. Like the immune system function we need to fight off this virus, for example.
Speaking of extreme relevance: time in natural environments can also reduce anxiety and depression, as well as mental fatigue and even full-blown PTSD. Who couldn’t use that right now? Here’s a handy list of those benefits, from my book-in-progress:
Mental Health benefits of urban wilds
(from "Wild and Healthy" in Design by Deficit: Neglect and the Accidental City)
A couple things to remember about this research:
If you need more information about any of these benefits:
Here’s a good readable article suitable for distributing to your clients.
Here’s an authoritative journal article for those who want more science in this.
And here’s a comprehensive resource about benefits of nature for cities from the University of Washington, College of the Environment, with an extensive bibliography for further reading as well as a really readable guide to benefits.
I'm pleased to announce I have a new study out this week, co-authored with former student Meghan Hazer and two Upstate Medical University faculty, Margaret Formica and Chris Morley. "The relationship between self-reported exposure to greenspace and human stress in Baltimore, MD," presents an investigation of the reduction of stress associated with spending time in or looking at green spaces. The article is available now online and will be out in print in an upcoming issue of Landscape and Urban Planning. As a journal article, it will be behind a paywall soon - but until October 13, it is available open access (that's free full text!) at this link: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1Vbv0cUG56y~D
Coming next week to a symposium near you: an interdisciplinary conversation about what's new, what's needed, and what to do about public infrastructure in urban neighborhoods. I'll be chairing this session and moderating the discussion, as well as presenting about public perception of infrastructure. Hope to see you there! (Registration link below).
Infrastructure has many connotations - public crisis, essential service, architectural buzzword - but also encompasses innovations like broadband and community microgrids. In older urban neighborhoods, political realities and lack of open space force infrastructural interventions to share public rights-of-way, spaces crowded above and below ground and home to many competing uses, such as all-weather transportation and street life. Dialogue and synergy between these many interests are crucial to financially feasible plans to make urban neighborhoods vibrant and attractive places to live and work. Presentation topics will include public perception of neighborhood infrastructure, green infrastructure in public rights-of-way, the Syracuse I-Team initiative, and community microgrids for neighborhoods.
2015 SyracuseCoE Symposium
Clean Energy Frontiers: From Lab to Market (Nov. 9-10)
Assorted drafts, previews, and outtakes from the book I'm currently writing about the impact of vegetation and neglect on urban life. I also take other thoughts for a test drive here, including nascent design and research ideas.