Open Voices News Roundup: February 10

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.

Stayin’ Alive:  The Life and Death Prospects of Community Ties
“As urbanists, we know that our innate desire to feel connected is nothing trivial. In fact, it’s so important that it’s actually embedded in the built form of the traditional city. Not to say or even imply that such town-building patterns create community but, rather, that they foster it. They make community easier.  But so what? Is community in our present age so important that these patterns of city-making are worth restoring? Why not just lump it in with petticoats and Edsels and all manner of other old-timey things of no modern relevance and move on to the ever-pending promise of isolated splendor?…The answer…that warm, fuzzy feeling we get when connected to our neighbors is nice, but it’s not the real point. It’s just a by-product of what community is really about: Staying alive.”

The Emergence of Nature Phobias:  Why More People Are Afraid of the Outdoors
“With a majority of Earth’s human inhabitants living in urban and suburban areas, a phenomenon is occurring that has never previously existed: An increasing number of people are afraid of nature.  This is striking, considering that we are natural beings, we have co-evolved with all other natural creatures and forces for millions of years and we share biology with both plants and animals. Nonetheless, so many people are now afraid of nature that this is a recognized mental disease.”

National Parks System Announces Healthy People Healthy Parks Program
“Imagine a new demographic of park users and stewards, connecting to parks through the improvement of one’s health – persons who have never visited national parks such as the memorials on the National Mall, seen a deer in the forest at Rock Creek Park, or heard the rushing rapids at Great Falls Park, but who suffer from obesity, asthma, and other mental health conditions.  Now, visualize health providers referring patients to nearby parks to hike, bike, play basketball, or practice yoga and as a result, patients becoming healthier and happier, and more connected to parks and the outdoors…The Park Rx work taking place in Washington can be a model for the NPS working with other land organizations and health providers across the country.”

Remember Playing Outside Until Mom Called You in for Dinner?  Today’s Kids Probably Won’t
“In the last two decades, childhood has moved indoors. The average American boy or girl spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.1,2,3  This shift inside profoundly impacts the wellness of our nation’s kids. Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled the last 20 years; the United States has become the largest consumer of ADHD medications in the world; and pediatric prescriptions for antidepressants have risen precipitously.4,5,6 Our kids are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out, because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.”