More green spaces equals a healthier city

Green spaces are associated with a host of health benefits. In order for the city to offer its inhabitants the best quality of life, green spaces are necessary, which, with the help of the State, integrate vegetation in all its strata: bushes, trees, herbaceous plants, vines, etc.

Green spaces will help reduce air pollution, as well as heat and noise levels; and provide opportunities for physical activity and social interaction.

These areas, so essential for health, are not enough in many cities or are in the wrong places. We all love walking through a park, a tree-lined street, or admiring nature from our window, but those of us who live in cities may not experience this as often as we would like.

Green spaces: increases longevity

A recent study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that concentrations of NO2 and PM (particles harmful to the human body) exceed safe levels in cities around the world.

According to Thomas Pugh and his colleagues, trees, plants and shrubs remove these pollutants from the environment, improving air quality. However, the improvement was very small: only 5%. This study estimates that large-scale development of green areas in various areas of the city could significantly reduce this figure, from 40% to 60%.

The scientists who conducted the study emphasized that special care must be taken when handling the plants because they can lose their cleaning effectiveness if certain contaminants enter the roots.

Green spaces are linked to a variety of health benefits, including a reduction in premature mortality, a Life expectancy longer, fewer mental health problems, less cardiovascular disease, better cognitive function in children, older adults and healthier children.

Green spaces and social differences

Green spaces are often not close enough to homes to provide health benefits. The unequal distribution and health effects of green spaces occur not only between cities but also within them, leaving a significant proportion of residents at a disadvantage, depending on the street or area in which they live.

In particular, poor areas tend to have fewer green spaces and do not benefit from them.

Inequalities in access:

  • Location: Green spaces are often concentrated in areas of greater purchasing power, leaving low-income communities with fewer access options.
  • Quality: Green areas in less favored areas may have less maintenance, security and infrastructure, which limits their attractiveness and usefulness.
  • Distance: Accessibility is affected by the distance between green spaces and communities, especially for those who do not have their own means of transportation.

But the presence of green spaces in cities may not be the only thing that matters: contact with nature is important to improve health and well-being. Research shows that two hours of contact with nature per week is the minimum to maintain good health and well-being.

Furthermore, although not yet as well understood, the quality of green spaces, including aspects of biodiversity, may also be important.

Green, accessible and well-kept area

green areas

Cities should focus on reclaiming urban land into green spaces, offering environmental solutions such as green roofs and vertical gardens, green areas in schoolyards, green corridors, street trees and "pocket parks" programs ( transform small urban spaces into accessible and attractive green areas) community gardens and other strategies such as redirecting traffic, removing asphalt and replacing it with green areas.

It is important that green areas are easily accessible and located close to people's homes.

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