Figure 1. https://www.flickr.com/photos/south-african-tourism/2418526898
Week 6 of conservation science involved a mid-term conference in which John Godlee from the University of Edinburgh put forward a thought provoking opinion of why society should spend more money conserving nature in urban areas.
When I think of urban areas, like many, I imagine skyscrapers, traffic and people. An aspect I had not considered are parks, trees and ponds which became clear during this talk are vital features and may even improve our health and well-being. In today’s world, 54% of the human population reside in cities . This percentage is thought to increase to 66% by 2050. In today’s world fewer people are visiting naturally green spaces such as national parks. As a result society is becoming even more disconnected from nature.
The talk brought forth convincing arguments that green spaces within cities not only affect our health and well-being but also our education and how we value nature. How can we expect someone to value something they have never seen?
Figure 2. https://www.flickr.com/photos/59632563@N04/6480297645
To me, parks are safe havens, places to relax and get away from the busy life of the city. A study found people had similar attitudes and that biodiversity within local parks correlated with indicators of mental well-being in their visitors. On top of this, a study by Louv (2005) found spending time in a natural setting can increase attention span and decrease symptoms of mental fatigue. A problem I feel we all struggle with at some point in our lives.
Natural areas can also decrease the recovery time of post-surgery patients . This exposure to nature benefits people who then in turn could benefit nature. For example, exposure could result in greater respect for the environment which might put pressure on governments to increase funding for conservation in cities and elsewhere.
Solutions that could be implemented to improve urban biodiversity were suggested. Creating green corridors would allow connections between isolated green areas within cities to the metapopulations in rural areas, reducing the risk of local extinctions. The aim of increasing biodiversity could be combined with other sustainable practices already put in place such as wetlands used as floodplains, can also harbour great biodiversity if managed effectively.
Figure 3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Built_environment
Community led developments were voiced as a great way of instilling ownership and pride within the public, resulting in increased sustainability of conservation projects by ensuring management continued after installation. Getting the community involved in the planning stage of projects would reduce opposition and expose the benefits to the public.
The concluding thoughts I took from the talk were;
- In an urban world people are becoming even more disconnected with nature.
- More money should be invested in providing green areas within cities as it not only increases biodiversity but also benefits people and changes attitudes towards nature for the better.
- Working with communities is the best way forward as it reduces opposition and increases sustainability of projects.
Finally,I have provided a link below to find parks near where you live.
So get out there, be active, and take advantage of nature right on your door step!
By Claudia Ardrey