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  • Flora Szkordilisz

The secret of wellbeing in cities: green help at hand

Dernière mise à jour : 19 mai 2020

Usually, we only realize the value of a service, when we are unable to approach it. It is not very different from ecosystem services either. The lack of the luxury of being able to spend a few minutes or hours in the nearby park made city people realize how valuable urban green spaces are.

The spring of 2020 brought to all of us a brand-new challenge: COVID-19. The pandemic caused many countries, all around the world, the necessity of obliging citizens to obey the rules of social distancing, curfew has been ordered in many regions, quarantine has been set up in more than half of the planet, and everyone experienced the feeling of being closed-up in their homes. At first, you enjoy being at home, but after the first week spent between these four walls , you feel the urge to go out and enjoy the green, the smells and sounds of spring: flourishing trees and chirping birds. This, however, gave a lot of headache to municipal decisionmakers, as it came clear quickly, that popular green spaces were so crowded at the weekends, that many urban green spaces and popular excursion spots near the city needed to be closed down. And the next question arose: where can people go without jeopardizing the health of their fellow citizens, but still enjoy nature at the same time?

Green spaces serving our health

In our normal life we don’t even realize the importance of green spaces, urban forests, trees or even the lawn in our back-yard; we do not value that spending time near the nature is an indispensable ingredient of our well-being: our physical and mental health. Walking or cycling in the forest, hoeing in our gardens, or just staring at the water of a pond or river makes our brain relax in a way no other activity can. Our culture became so estranged from human’s natural habitat -the nature itself- that we needed a pandemic and extraordinary circumstances to realize what scientists have been saying in the last decades: cities need re-naturing!

We do not have any scientific proof, but I hope, lot of people finally realized the importance of urban green spaces of any kind: from the terrace tomatoes to the urban forests. I dare say, back-yards and even terrace gardens never looked so neat and tidy like in the past weeks of curfew.

Our pilot municipalities answers

The partners of Nature4Cities also experienced the issues of open green space management in the past weeks. For example, the municipality of Szeged needed to close three of the most important urban green spaces in the vicinity of the city centre.

N4C partner Metropolitan City of Milano – as all over Italy – also had to close down all green areas for nearly 7 weeks from 14th of March to 4th of May; public access was prohibited to parks, play areas and public gardens.

“At the beginning of the lockdown, the first days of March, it was allowed to attend parks, but because parks were overcrowded, Mayors and the government respectively closed down parks also. Citizens initially reacted badly to the closure of green areas and thus the ban of sports and physical activities, but then they understood that it was necessary for the common good, so that everyone respected the imposed measures. However, from the nature’s point of view the quarantine also meant the cancellation of spring maintenance works as well. Only extraordinary maintenance were done, limited to the care and maintenance of parks, gardens and green areas aimed at the prevention of damage and safety. From the 4th of May operators have returned to do maintenance of the open green spaces.” Metropolitan city of Milan

The Palazzo Isimbardi garden (Source: Metropolitan City of Milan).

Long-term effects

The pandemic showed that it is not only about the issue of biologically active areas: people are looking for places to recuperate from their daily job, they look for well-kept and secure open spaces. Our quality of life depends strongly on high-quality and available green spaces in the vicinity of our homes. We all hope, that this unusual experience made many decisionmakers realize the importance of implementing nature-based solutions and renature-ing urban areas.

You wish to implement Nature Based Solutions projects to re-nature your city?

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