Open Voices Blog

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

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Open Voices News Roundup: October 30

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.
Compact and Connected Communities Improve Public Health
“We know…

Open Voices News Roundup: October 23

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.
10 Ways to Get Your Kids Out in Nature,…

Open Voices News Roundup: October 16

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.
Minneapolis Has a Plan for the Most Resilient Neighborhood…

Open Voices News Roundup: October 9

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.
Downtown Leaders Form Entity to Oversee Green Space
“Minneapolis…

Open Voices News Roundup: October 30

10/30/14 | View Comments

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

Compact and Connected Communities Improve Public Health

“We know from exhaustive past research that walkable neighborhoods and cities reduce driving, associated emissions, and living costs.  Three important academic studies published earlier this year demonstrate that they are good for our health, too. In particular, the research, which examines different aspects of compact, walkable, and mixed-use communities and compares those aspects to published government health data, finds that such neighborhoods and cities are strongly associated with reduced rates of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.  The reason is close to a tautology:  walkable environments encourage walking, which in turns facilitates good health.  While researchers are careful to point out that many other factors facilitate good health as well, the results hold up even when the studies are controlled to eliminate those other factors from consideration.”

South Los Angeles Residents Push to Transform Railway to 8-Mile Greenbelt

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Mindfulness in Green Spaces

10/28/14 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This October we share in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Urban green spaces provide opportunities to enjoy natural scenery, relax, sit quietly, commune with others, meditate, pray, or self-reflect. Yet your surroundings, whether a small urban park or a few plants outside your window, aren’t just a backdrop for beneficial activities. The places and spaces we inhabit interact with our bodies and minds in amazing and sometimes imperceptible ways.

Research continues to expand on the mental and physical health benefits of spending time in nature. We are less stressed, more focused, and generally happier when we spend time in the outdoors. Urban green spaces, especially those small pockets of green you find hidden among your neighborhood, can provide a moment of peace and quiet. We know exercise provides innumerable benefits, but so does pausing to appreciate your surroundings and breathing with purpose. In studies investigating benefits of meditation, the list continues to grow:

Lowered heart rate, lowered blood pressure, improved metabolism, improved respiration, improved cognitive functions, longer attention spans and improved perceptual ability, memory, intelligence and empathy 1.

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Open Voices News Roundup: October 23

10/23/14 | View Comments

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

10 Ways to Get Your Kids Out in Nature, and Why it Matters

“According to Richard Louv, 2008 Audubon Medal Recipient and author of Last Child in the Woods, kids today are becoming more and more removed from nature, at the expense of their own psychological and physical well being. Children are spending more time in structured activities and on electronic devices, leaving little time for unstructured play in nature… Children who spend more time in nature develop better motor fitness and coordination, especially in balance and agility. And the benefits of the mind are not to be overlooked; greater time in nature can help children develop a healthy interior life, greater mental acuity, inventiveness, and sustained intellectual development. As it turns out, being in nature is not the “tree-hugging” hype of the past.”

Green from Green: Public Parks Increase CRE Value

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The Future of Cancer Research

10/21/14 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This October we share in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In addition to the stress from a cancer diagnosis, decisions like deciding the best treatment plan for your body can be daunting. In our decades-long research battle with cancer, scientists are documenting the outcomes of different treatment options and technology. An unfortunate and documented side effect of chemotherapy is loss in cognitive function and ability to focus and concentrate. And, we know from several studies that those who have recently discovered their cancer diagnosis but not even began chemotherapy already face demands on their attention and cognitive abilities. A few researchers are working to develop breast cancer health interventions to maintain or restore attention capacity during the demanding phases of illness. This research group is studying the effects of a nature-based intervention on the cognitive attention of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer 1.

A woman enjoys a moment in nature

A woman enjoys a moment in nature


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Open Voices News Roundup: October 16

10/16/14 | View Comments

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

Minneapolis Has a Plan for the Most Resilient Neighborhood in the Country

“For Minneapolis, climate change will most likely lead to wetter, hotter years by mid-century, with annual temperatures rising as much as 5 degrees. Unfortunately, like most cities, its pipes, sewers and even electricity were laid for very different weather. Adapting could require the ability to disconnect from that grid — which is exactly what the planners of one futuristic neighborhood propose to do.Those involved in the project, called Prospect North, use a variety of terms to capture their vision — “city within a city,” “innovation district,” “living laboratory.” Between waste-powered energy and an on-site hydroponic farm, blueprints for the dense living-and-working space look about as off-the-traditional-grid as a commune in the woods.”

A Common Vision: NYC People’s Climate March and City Parks

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Support Your Immune System

10/14/14 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This October we share in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In 2014, about 295,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women1 . Receiving a cancer diagnosis is not a welcome life challenge for anyone. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 3%.

After receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, a patient coordinates with her doctor and other support systems to choose the right treatment options. Undergoing chemotherapy is part of the treatment for most (but not all) breast cancer patients. In the process of killing cancer, chemotherapy also decimates human immune functioning. Patients are more susceptible to other illnesses and simple colds because their body’s defenses are weak. And for some patients in late stages of cancer, the radiation required to combat cancer cells causes more harm than good.

How can everyday natural landscapes contribute to the health and well-being of breast cancer patients and survivors?

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The Rosy Periwinkle in Your Garden

10/09/14 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This October we share in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The Rosy Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) from Madagascar is a delicate, cheerful flower cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant. Indigenous healers valued it for its many medicinal properties and Western scientists eventually developed it for pharmaceutical use. This pink flower generates chemical compounds commonly used in chemotherapy to treat several types of cancer, including breast cancer. 
Catharanthus roseus

When we hear mention of a new discovery in cancer research, botanical compounds like the periwinkle’s vinblastine are typical (although not to be taken for granted). But, humans and plants are also interacting in a holistic, environmental exchange at a much larger scale.

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Open Voices News Roundup: October 9

10/09/14 | View Comments

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

Downtown Leaders Form Entity to Oversee Green Space

“Minneapolis business leaders have created a nonprofit conservancy to oversee a new urban park that will sprout up beside the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. With the formation of Greening Downtown Minneapolis, business leaders are taking a leadership role on a project that public bodies have struggled to make a reality because of daunting funding and legal challenges…The Downtown Council recently helped form the conservancy with $50,000 in seed money from Wells Fargo. Its bare-bones three-member board is led by David Wilson, an executive at Accenture. If given City Council approval, the organization’s primary role would be to oversee a new 4.2-acre park planned to anchor the multifaceted developments in Downtown East.”

Green Between the Tracks: An Urban Nature Park

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Open Voices News Roundup: October 2

10/02/14 | View Comments

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

Improved Mental Health Linked to Nature Group Walks

“Although it is well known that outdoor walking groups encourage interaction with nature, social engagement and physical activity, until now, little has been known about how effective they are at promoting mental, emotional and social well-being. A recent study published in April suggested that walking boosts creative thinking, while another from July suggested brisk walking is therapeutic for people with Parkinson’s disease. Though the health benefits of going for a good walk are wide ranging, researchers from this latest study focused on the mental benefits of the activity. Their results are published in the journal Ecopsychology.”

Parklets and Pop-Ups

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Open Voices News Roundup: September 25

09/25/14 | View Comments

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

Can More Trees Cause Healthier Babies?

“Mothers who live in greener areas deliver healthier babies, a new study from Oregon State University shows. Plenty of grass, trees and other green vegetation leads to longer terms and higher birth weights, researchers from OSU and the University of British Columbia found. The findings held true even when results were adjusted for factors such as neighborhood income, exposure to air pollution, noise and neighborhood walkability.”

Urban Farming in Brooklyn: a Return to the Land

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We are a private nonprofit that funds publicly accessible urban green space. We believe that everyone needs to “be in nature” as nature both heals and unifies us. The Foundation partners with organizations to create Open Spaces Sacred Places, which increase a sense of community and contribute to a deepening of human connections. These sacred places reawaken and reaffirm the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing.

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