ANNAPOLIS, Md., Oct. 27, 2017 — As we grapple with one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricane seasons in recent memory, and climatologists ponder the possibility that this could be the new normal, there is a question everyone should be asking: Is there something we could be doing to help communities — individuals — heal and recover, faster and stronger?
The answer is a resounding yes, and can be found in nature. A short documentary film by the TKF Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for and supports the creation of healing greenspaces, launched today. It tells the story of the essential role nature is playing in the continuing recovery of one Queens community hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The lessons learned there build on a growing body of research feeding our understanding of the powerful relationship between people and nature.
“People have an innate need to connect with nature; and this need intensifies following crippling disasters,” said Keith Tidball, Director of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Disaster Education Network at Cornell University. Tidball has immersed himself in disaster zones the world over to better understand how people can work together to restore nature and heal themselves in times of deep crisis.
Hurricane Healing Garden centers on a project to restore a community garden at Beach 41st Street Houses, a New York City Housing Authority property. The garden’s 30 plots were washed away by Sandy’s storm surge. After the water receded, weeds thrived where residents had once cultivated vegetables and flowers.
In early 2015, a team involving social scientists from the US Forest Service, researchers from Cornell University, community members and organizers, landscape designers from Ecotone Building and the TKF Foundation came together to restore the garden, and to study how the revival of the greenspace would impact the community’s recovery. Learnings from the project will be published in an upcoming book by the Forest Service.
“We are without a doubt experiencing more intense, major weather events and other sorts of cataclysmic activities,” said Tidball, pointing to the essential nature of green infrastructure, like the Beach 41st Street garden.
“And the green infrastructure isn’t just nice to do, this is fundamentally important. If we ignore it, we do so at our own peril in terms of a community’s recovery long-term from a disaster.”