Why Are Green Spaces So Important?
By Emily Thornhill
Last year, 83.9% of the UK population were recorded as living within an urban setting. This type of living limits people’s connection to nature, and with rates of urbanisation increasing, easily accessible green spaces are becoming more and more important. When such spaces are not available, the exposure to environmental hazards such as noise and air pollution can increase for urban residents, having a negative affect on both their physical and mental health. As well as this, by establishing new nonrural green spaces or changing the characteristics of existing ones, innovative nature-based solutions are created in promoting sustainable lifestyles, increasing a sense of local community and improving the quality of urban settings. From an environmental aspect, the creation of parks, greens and playgrounds also ensures that urban biodiversity is maintained and protected.
According to the mental health charity ‘Mind’, finding ways to bring nature into your everyday life and routine brings with it a whole range of benefits. From improving mood, physical health and self esteem, to relieving stress and creating opportunities for new connections to be made, spending time in nature can be extremely helpful. Therefore, prioritising green spaces contributes to reducing morbidity and mortality in urban environments, improving the quality of life of their inhabitants on both an individual and community level. Through creating parks, green roofs, city farms, community gardens and playgrounds, a greater feeling of community and stronger social ties are formed. This in turn, helps to reduce crime and increase feelings of safety and empowerment for local residents.
These changes do not necessarily have to be implemented through the creation of large scale spaces, which can often be hard to comeby in busy urban environments. Smaller additions such as roadside greenery and vegetation barriers that run alongside streets and transport links can also contribute to the benefits listed above. Investing in walking and cycling trails, corridors and greenways makes open spaces more accessible by creating direct routes that connect people to new areas. Pre-existing infrastructure can also be modified to increase access to nature, through the creation of rooftop, courtyard and balcony gardens as well as green facades on high-rise buildings. Everyone can benefit from urban green spaces such as these being prioritised, as every action, no matter how small, contributes in the fight against climate change and loss of biodiversity.