Updated: Jun 14
Do green spaces guarantee a greener city?
Urban regions are expanding at an alarming rate around the world. In fact, it is estimated that about five billion people would live in cities by 2030, accounting for 60% of the total global population of 8.3 billion. As a direct result of such rapid urban growth, there is increased strain on urban areas, resulting in the reduction of urban green spaces, which are the lungs of cities. Furthermore, various heat sources, such as surrounding houses, industries, and daily movement, serve as a significant thermal source. The air has become contaminated in these areas, and new diseases have emerged. Green space in cities provides various ecosystem services that can help combat many urban maladies and improve city people’s lives, particularly their health.
(Also read: Please, don’t bring the heat: On Urban Heat Islands)
During the summer months in some cities, the sun's rays dart across concrete surfaces, which, when overheated, reflect and trap energy, which is then rendered into roadways and buildings. As a result, the city turns into a furnace. The environment is unsuitable because of the cramped dwellings, which lack ample avenues and green spaces. Heat is trapped by the concrete buildings that have replaced trees and natural plants and now cover the area. People in cities are forced to use air conditioners, which raise heat stress and consume a lot of electricity. While homes that overlook a garden or a green space, or those over an artery well ventilated, enjoy summer the freshness due to the local breeze.
Green spaces have been shown to have positive effects on human physical, mental, and social health, as well as the benefits they bring to cities. Scholars have discovered that urban green spaces provide essential ecosystem services that can enhance air quality, reduce pollution, absorb carbon, give shade, reduce noise, regulate erosion, and filter water, among other things. Trees also act as noise barriers and reduce pollution through a phenomenon called sound attenuation, which is the damping of sound. Physical health benefits from urban green spaces are often a result of residents spending more time interacting with the outdoors and engaging in recreational activities like biking, running, or going on nature walks. Social health benefits can also result from access to green space. Green spaces may serve as meeting spaces, which leads to stronger social ties and social cohesion within a community
However, as with other urban sustainability methods, urban green space policies may produce paradoxical outcomes. If they are effective in terms of urban people and enterprises, they may eventually exclude those who have the greatest need for access. Urban greening projects can trigger rounds of gentrification by simultaneously making older, typically low-income and/or industrial areas of existing cities more livable and attractive, dramatically altering housing opportunities and the commercial/retail infrastructure that supports lower-income communities. This paradoxical effect has been variously termed ecological gentrification. This phenomenon isn't new, and it's not exclusive to western cities. Many big park initiatives in the past were blatantly planned to enhance land values and offer up development prospects, and this trend is now influencing urban areas in China and other parts of Asia.
So, how can urban ecologists, planners, and designers deal with this green space conundrum?
A promising approach is to design interventions that are ‘just green enough ‘ A "just green enough" strategy focuses explicitly on social justice and environmental goals as defined by local communities, those people who have been most negatively affected by environmental disamenities, with the goal of keeping them in place to enjoy any environmental improvements. It's extremely difficult to replace these market-driven or ecological approaches with "just green enough" strategies, which usually include community action. Those initiatives, on the other hand, can aid in the preservation of low-income areas.
Being just green enough necessitates a delicate balancing act. It necessitates collaborations between local government and various community groups, as well as local stakeholders' willingness to take on big real estate interests and mainstream environmental campaigners. But, in order to develop policies for urban green space that explicitly improve public health, environmental equality, and social justice in urban areas, the active participation of urban planners, designers, and ecologists is also required. It is also exceedingly difficult to locate space to plant a new tree in highly developed places such as large towns and cities. Planners face a longer-term challenge in creating fresh green space in already-built urban communities. As a result, the emphasis on greening should move to individual green assets (plants on terraces, terrace gardens, interior plants, private gardens/lawns, and so on).
The quality of urban living will deteriorate in the future years as a result of rising temperatures and air pollution caused by global warming. Planners must do everything possible to mitigate these consequences in the built environment.
Wolch, J. R., Byrne, J., & Newell, J. P. (2014). Urban green space, public health, and environmental justice: The challenge of making cities ‘just green enough.’ Landscape and Urban Planning, 125, 234–244.
Gupta, K., Kumar, P., Pathan, S., & Sharma, K. (2012). Urban Neighborhood Green Index – A measure of green spaces in urban areas. Landscape and Urban Planning, 105(3), 325–335.
Human Benefits of Green Spaces | Cooperative Extension | University of Delaware. (n.d.). Www.Udel.Edu. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from
D., Cmweatherfordcmweatherford, P. B., Dagutierrez2Dagutierrez2, P. B., Dcnewtondcnewton, P. B., Djmariduenadjmariduena, P. B., Dwmurawskidwmurawski, P. B., Jccarmodyjccarmody, P. B., Phenthornephenthorne, P. B., & Pserratospserratos, P. B. (2020, May 19). The Values and Shortcomings of Green Spaces in Urban Environments. Office of Sustainability - Student Blog.