Open Voices Blog

News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities

Open Voices News Roundup: April 15

Posted on 04/15/13

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

The Completely Puzzling Relationship Between City Population and Parks
The larger a city gets, the less infrastructure it needs per capita. At the same time, as populations increase, problems like crime and benefits like intellectual property proliferate at an even greater rate than one-to-one (when a city doubles in size, for instance, it produces more than twice the patents). In these reliable, mathematical ways, cities mimic nature. And yet, ironically, there is one element of cities that doesn’t seem to follow any scaling law: nature itself. Nature and it’s an admittedly slippery term that you can define multiple ways is spread within and across cities with wild variability.

A Wilder Way
Once upon a time, planting in the city meant beds of brightly colored flowers that lasted for a few months before being dug up, disposed of and replaced with something else. It was all very labor intensive, resource-hungry and unsustainable. [Piet] Oudolf’s work is part of a movement that seeks to use long-lived, perennial plants, which need minimal management. The city may have become our habitat, but we are increasingly learning how we can share it with other species and the new perennial planting is central to how we are doing this.

Learning From Knight’s Soul of the Community, Leaning Toward the Future of Placemaking
It’s hard for me to believe that, just six years ago, I had never even heard the word Placemaking. I’ve been a community practitioner all of my life, trained as a macro-practitioner with a Masters and Ph.D. in Social Work and a dissertation on civic engagement and social capital. I believed there were certain characteristics that inherently enabled places to identify and solve their own problems, and I believed that some of the answers related to civic engagement and social capital. Still, I was haunted by the thought that there was more to it: pieces of the puzzle that hadn’t been placed yet.

Vis Medicatrix Naturae: Does Nature Minister to the Mind?
A century ago Sir J. Arthur Thomson maintained that the millennia had shaped the far-reaching relations between humans and nature, and that these relations could not be ignored, could not be abandoned, without loss in the realm of positive mental health. While it is difficult to determine to what extent the potential losses might be, it seems fair to suggest that the losses may be more than currently appreciated by most physicians and mental health experts. Given the positive relationship between nature connectedness, personal well-being, and conservation/pro-environmental attitudes, the experience of even nearby nature might also provide a more sustainable path towards sustainability.

A Moment of Revelation: Outdoor Afro
Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro, was named a Hero in Backpacker Magazine, honored as part of the Root 100 of the top black achievers and influencers for 2012, and received the Josephine and Frank Duveneck Award for her humanitarian efforts. There is no less awe and appreciation of her work in her wide circle of colleagues and the movement. In our interview, we found that Outdoor Afro’s deep roots go back to her childhood experiences and strong family connections.

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    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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