The Value of Urban Green Space

Nov 21st, 2017

At BC Healthy Communities, we recognize that one’s built and natural environments influence community health outcomes, and the importance of staying up to date on emerging evidence form experts in this field. On November 18th our Research and Impact Specialist, Diana Gresku, attended the British Columbia Society of Landscape Architect’s workshop which focused on the value of urban green spaces. This workshop provided an opportunity for researchers, planners, urban architects, arborists and other community partners to discuss the benefits of trees and green space to health, infrastructure, rain water management and climate-resiliency. 

The keynote speakers included a manager of community planning, university researchers, certified arborists and stormwater specialists. Speakers discussed that globally, urbanization is increasing, and one of the Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the United Nations is to develop sustainable and liveable cities by 2030. As a part of this goal, targets aim to provide universal access to safe, affordable, sustainable and inclusive green and public spaces. The speakers highlighted the social, economic and health benefits of having access to urban green spaces, and also described challenges and opportunities that arise when developing and/or conserving these spaces.

Some questions that were put forth by presenters included:

  • Can denser cities be greener cities?
  • How do you create good urban conditions while maintaining ecological capital?
  • What’s greener: a light rail transit system or parkland?
  • How can public and private developers work together to create urban green spaces?
  • What are the benefits of bringing forests into a city?
  • How can portions of trees be retained in landscape designs to enhance wildlife habitat safety and maintain biodiversity?
  • Can urban green spaces decrease the global burden of disease? In what ways does this occur?

In response to this last question, Dr. Matilida van den Bosch, (background in medicine, public health and forest conservation) indicated that research shows that exposure to urban green spaces has positive effects on human health. Urban green spaces can decrease all-cause mortality, improve mental health and wellbeing and reduce the prevalence of asthma. These effects may be due to the increased opportunities for physical activity, improved mood and happiness, increased social interactions and stress reduction resulting from exposure to urban green spaces.  Exposure to urban green space is one part of improving population health outcomes, and an aspect BC Healthy Communities will continue to strongly advocate for. 

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