Open Voices Blog

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

Disaster recovery and a nature fix

11/17/17 | View Comments

In a couple of short weeks, the Atlantic hurricane season will officially, and hopefully quietly, end, though the disaster it left in its wake will continue to tax communities from Texas to Puerto Rico for weeks and months to come.

In fact, many communities most likely will be still putting the pieces back together again when the next season begins in June. And this should give us all reason to pause. To think. What can we do to encourage recovery?

Of course, our focus at TKF is reacquainting the public with nature, and educating on the power it holds to help restore us individually and as communities and encourage better mental and physical health.  

Greening efforts are an essential piece of recovery; not just of our built and natural environments, but of the people who comprise our communities. This is a key message researchers and social scientists are urgently trying to get across to the public.

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A filmmaker’s perspective; Alden Stoner on Hurricane Healing Garden

11/16/17 | View Comments

We recently launched our latest short film on the community garden project in Queens that is part of our National Nature Sacred Awards program. Below, a letter from the filmmaker Alden Stoner, which also appeared in The Dirt, the American Society of Landscape Architects blog. 


Rarely have I worked on a project that I feel is quite as timely and potentially impactful as this film on the Beach 41st Street garden. With images of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean fresh in our minds, this story of how nature has helped one Queens community heal following Hurricane Sandy is incredibly relevant.

When we finished shooting this past spring, it was months before the name Harvey had been uttered on a weather forecast. But by the time September had arrived, and with it a new wave of destructive storms, we at TKF felt a renewed sense of urgency to shine a light on what we had learned through our work in Queens post-Sandy.

When Sandy’s storm surge engulfed the Rockaways, the devastation was intense. You get a visceral sense of what the residents of Beach 41st Street, a New York City Housing residence, lived through in the voice of Celeste Grimes, one of the resident gardeners we interviewed for the film. She described it in apocalyptic terms.

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At Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, nature is helping wounded warriors heal from invisible wounds

11/10/17 | View Comments

One year ago, work began to gently shape a lush, wooded piece of land beside our nation’s flagship military hospital into a healing garden space for wounded warriors and their families. The project has been groundbreaking. While we funded “The Green Road” project, it has been led by Dr. Fred Foote, a retired US Navy Captain and scholar at the Institute for Integrative Health. The space is intended to help address “invisible” injuries, like PTSD.

Multiple studies are underway at The Green Road to help us better understand how nature can be used to improve treatments for patients in the future. 

 

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Green spaces as an “under-recognized healer”

09/29/17 | View Comments

Our friends on the other side of the pond recently released a report lauding the great and many benefits of nature — calling it an “under-recognized healer”. While the findings align with what we already know (nothing surprising for our fellow-champions of green spaces), we paused a moment at the phrase “under-recognized healer”. Perfectly stated.

As a nation, we invest billions of dollars searching for new drugs and therapies to treat a constellation of ills. Yet, we are guilty of not fully recognizing, or taking advantage of, this great and potent agent of health and wellbeing that already exists. Hard to comprehend, really.

The report, authored by the Institute for European Policy (IEEP), was fodder for a recent article in The Guardian, which homed in on the fact that people who live close to green spaces are less likely to be obese, inactive or dependent on anti-depressants.

The IEEP team responsible for the report, according to The Guardian, spent a year reviewing more than 200 academic studies for the report, which they stated is the most wide-ranging probe yet into the dynamics of health, nature and wellbeing.

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In the wake of natural disasters, here’s what we need to do better

09/27/17 | View Comments

Keith Tidball, Director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Disaster Education Network at Cornell University

This is turning out to be a very destructive Atlantic hurricane season. While the media’s attention has understandably turned to the latest storm, Maria, that recently wreaked havoc in the Caribbean, Harvey and Irma are now weeks behind us. But thousands of people — communities — have just started the process of picking up the pieces, practically and emotionally.

As many climatologists are hypothesizing that this could be the new normal, due to global warming, now seems the perfect time to think about what we can do better in terms of recovery. The fact is, part of the answer, we already know. Or rather, some of us do. But the message hasn’t penetrated policy-level planning around disaster response plans, or found its way into mainstream conversations. Which is why we’re tackling the subject here. So that you can be a part of a new wave of informed citizens, urging decision-makers and communities to broaden our understanding and reaction to natural disasters.   

So, back to “the answer” (hint: it’s green).

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How nature helped one Rockaway community recover following Hurricane Sandy

09/22/17 | View Comments

New short documentary film set to launch next month

The past month has seen our television screens filled with images of cities and towns inundated with flood waters — the result of an Atlantic hurricane season considered by various meteorological standards to be the worst in years.

For those who’ve lived through rising waters before, the images can be particularly painful to watch. But they are also a reminder of what they – we – have learned about nature, resilience, and recovery following natural disasters.

Next month, on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, we will release a short film that tells the story of one community in Rockaway, NY; of how a garden helped draw them together, aiding in their continuing recovery, following the “super storm” that left this area of the city particularly devastated.

The garden, which is steps away from the beach, was originally established in the 1990s, and serves residents of the B 41st Street Houses, a New York City Housing Authority Property. The garden’s 30 plots, where residents cultivated vegetables and flowers, were washed away by Sandy’s storm surge.

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There’s a blindspot in most post-disaster recovery efforts, and it may surprise you

09/13/17 | View Comments

As we watched Harvey enter the US and pummel parts of coastal Texas and Louisiana two weeks ago, and then Irma take aim at the Caribbean and Florida last weekend, our hearts lurched —  seeing both the immediate suffering, and thinking of the long road to recovery that lies ahead.

The images and stories coming out of Houston and the surrounding areas, the Keys, Jacksonville; they triggered memories of Sandy. Knowing what we do, our thoughts quickly turned to resilience and recovery — to what we learned through our work with one community in Queens following that 2012 hurricane.

Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston

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A #Benchstories Haiku #Naturesacred

07/28/17 | View Comments

Today’s Bench Story comes from the journal in the Open Spaces Sacred Places at the Crispus Attucks Development Corporation in Washington, D.C.  #Benchstories are collected from the journals found in all TKF Foundation Open Spaces Sacred Places.

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Balancing the WOW! with the Messy

07/26/17 | View Comments


 


At Nature Sacred, we keep a close eye on the academic research being published around nature, health, and wellbeing. Via Research Shorts, each month we take what we see as some of the most interesting work being published and create a brief summary for our readers — enabling you to be in the know, even if you’re short on time.


 

A Brief Summary of the Research

In a study out of the UK, park visitors were most impressed and excited by colorful flower displays but felt most relaxed among subtle variations in green plantings. Visual cues that a green space provided pollinator habitat, even if ‘messy’, mattered to visitors.

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“Clearly this is someone’s Happy Place…” #Benchstories #Naturesacred

07/21/17 | View Comments

Today’s Bench Story comes from the journal in the Open Spaces Sacred Places at the Baltimore Clayworks in Baltimore, MD.  #Benchstories are collected from the journals found in all TKF Foundation Open Spaces Sacred Places.

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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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