Green Spaces Good for Urban Landscapes

City planners and scientists across Europe, and the world, see the benefit of replacing urban concrete with green spaces. The hope is to increase the benefits of nature for inner city residents and reduce the effects greenhouse gasses in urban areas.

By Staff Writer

The need for nature is clear

It’s a widely accepted part of life, even urban life, that being close to nature is good. This idea has fueled a drive for greener cityscapes that increase general wellbeing benefits inner city residents. Another benefit is the reduction of carbon dioxide, and thus the effects of climate change.

The green cities initiative is one of several subjects being discussed at a UN-sponsored conference on ways to reduce greenhouse emissions on urban lands. The conference also aims to identify ways to make cities more “resilient” to extreme weather events, reports the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The conference comes on the heels of changing population patterns. About 55 percent of the world resides in an urban environment. That figure is expected to jump to 66 percent, according to the Foundation report.

Green is Good

According to experts, expanding urban green spaces have positive effects:

  • Kevin J. Gaston, a professor of biodiversity and conservation at Britain's University of Exeter, spoke of the psychological and physical benefits a greener city to the Foundation. In particular, he cited conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and mental illness that are more common in urban areas.
  • Marcus Collier, an assistant professor of botany at Trinity College Dublin, told the Foundation that planting a green roof, for example, will provide insolation that lessens the energy needs of a building.
  • Connecting Nature, a group headed by Collier, said on their web site that green spaces can do things like fight rising heat levels, provide a buffer from flooding, and intercept noise, dust and pollution.

Urban Green Projects Happening Now

A number of projects around Europe are transforming common areas into green space. This includes the Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, a concrete landmark in Barcelona.

According to Foundation reporting, a pair of tunnels will divert traffic and the concrete plaza will be replaced with a lawn for a children’s play area, a public market, water features and an area for public performances.

Other European locations are undergoing similar transformations, according to Foundation reporting:

  • Madrid is spending millions of euros to increase green spaces around the city as well as expanding efforts to cover walls and roofs with more greenery.
  • In the north end of Barcelona, a 7.6 million -euro project will transform the run down Finca Ravetllat-Pla into a green space.
  • Plans have been approved for a vertical forest on a 54-metre wooden tower block outside of France, which will include trees, shrubs and plants.

Other Green Initiatives

Another green strategy is to bring people to open spaces outside the city. Japan has done this effectively according to the Foundation by using rail links to bring people to the mountains.

There are no quantifiable ways to measure how green spaces reduce hospital stays or lower blood pressure, Collier told the Foundation, but there are definite advantages to creating more green spaces. This is the premise driving the Connecting Nature, an 11.4 euro project tasked with creating “nature-based solutions” throughout 11 European cities.

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