From the United States, confirmation of the importance of green area enrichment programs. An increase in vegetation in the cities could have saved up to 38,000 deaths in the last twenty years

Lisa Ovi

We have often talked about 17 Sustainable Development Goals published by the UN as a map towards a fair, prosperous and healthy world for all. At the forefront of these goals we find the need to address pressing issues such as poverty, hunger, healtheducation, gender equality, access to water and energy and the fight against climate change.

At number 11, however, a perhaps more unexpected voice appears: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, long-lasting and sustainable.

Goals for Sustainable Development, UN

How important is urban green

According to a UN report, in fact, if half of the global human population already lives in urban contexts today, by 2050 this percentage is expected to reach at least two thirds. The data positions cities at the forefront of sustainability.

What elements can make a city sustainable and support the well-being of its citizens? Among the most accredited we find the invitation to create freely accessible green and blue spacesa central objective in European urban policy.

Both science and politics now recognize the potential of green spaces in supporting the health and well-being of citizens. Accessible green areas are particularly important for children, the elderly and the low-income peoplewhich often lacks the opportunity to easily get in touch with nature.

How to deal with the problem

Hence, there is a proliferation of programs aimed at creating in cities quality green and blue spaces, such as parks, vegetable gardens, river banks and coasts, which are essential for health and well-being. From the Green Cities Initiative of FAO, to the European mission that challenges 100 cities on the continent (9 Italians) to decarbonise by 2030, 20 years earlier than the deadline of 2050 defined by the European Green Deal.

Among the selected Italian cities we find complex urban realities such as Florence and Milan, which has become a global icon of the aspiration to green with its vertical forest signed Stefano Boeri.

Both cities have implemented ambitious reforestation projects. Florence, whose mayor Dario Nardella is also president of Eurocities, plans to plant 1 million trees within the next ten yearswhile the Milanese urban green enrichment project, Forest mewill see the Lombard capital plant 3 million trees by 2030.

The study that confirms everything

The confirmation of how urgent it is and full of promises for the future enrich the natural heritage of cities comes to us from a study conducted on the US territory by Boston University and published on Frontiers in Public Health. According to the data collected by the researchers, in fact, an increase in urban greenery in large metropolitan areas could have been prevent 34,000 to 38,000 deaths in the first twenty years of the 2000s.

“We know that living in greener areas can have a positive impact on our physical and mental healthbut there is a lack of data on how changes in the distribution of greenery can affect death rates across the country, “says the lead author of the study. Paige Brochu, PhD student at the BU Department of Environmental Health. “Our study quantifies the impact of green expansion in urban areas and shows how it can increase people’s life expectancy. This information is available to politicians and planners interested in creating local climate action plans that include greening initiatives. “

According to the researchers, thickening the urban green could don’t be simple in every citydue to differences in climate, water sources, degree of urbanization and type of landscape.

We need the intervention of specialized agronomists and landscape architects such as Dr. Francesca Newborn: “It is possible to study the local conditions and develop projects adapted to the characteristics of each place to create cities that are more resilient to climate change, increase the comfort of citizens, reduce energy waste and improve the urban landscape”.

Dr. Neonato is the author of the book ‘Green Gold. How much is the Natin the City ‘Il Verde Editoriale, and Italian representative at the IFLA Europe (International Federation of Landscape Architects), whose mission is to promote a holistic vision of landscape architecture in support of a sustainable, culturally rich and diverse Europe.

There is still a lot to study

Boston researchers hope to further explore what changes are associated with the distribution of urban greenery and how these changes can informing cities’ resilience plans against climate change.

These analyzes are also made possible on a global level thanks to satellite surveys by programs that monitor the planet’s green mantle such as Copernicusof the European Space Agency.

“One of the great advantages ofuse of satellite measurements is that we can compare the impact on health and mortality of urban green spaces between the United States and Europe or other areas, thus creating a global picture”Says senior author of the Boston study, Dr. Kevin Lane. “This work will allow us to quantify whether a given climate change adaptation strategy could impact not only urban areas in the United States, but also the rest of the world.”

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