A new report from The Trust for Public Land (TPL) makes a compelling case for transforming underperforming, paved public schoolyards into green oases for the entire community. While the benefits for schools and their educational communities are clear, TPL sees an opportunity to open up these facilities to surrounding neighborhoods after school hours, on weekends, and when school is out. If all 90,000 public schools in the country had a “community schoolyard,” more communities could tackle the persistent park equity issue — in which too few communities, particularly undeserved ones, enjoy access to nearby high-quality public green spaces. TPL argues that opening up all schoolyards, essentially turning them into part-time all-access community hubs, would “put a park within a 10-minute walk of nearly 20 million people — solving the problem of outdoor access for one-fifth of the nation’s 100 million people who don’t currently have a park close to home.”
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that global warming of 1.5°C (2.7 °F) is essentially inevitable in coming decades. The question now is whether the world can prevent further, more destructive warming of 2°C (3.6°F), or, even worse, 3°C (5.4°F), which is what current policies put us on a trajectory to experience. Our economies can only put another 420 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere if we want a good chance of keeping a temperature increase to 1.5°C instead of 2°C. At our current pace, the world’s carbon budget will be used up before 2030. We need to phase out fossil-fuel use, build thousands of new clean power plants — and swiftly move to power our homes, offices, schools, and transportation systems with clean energy.
People living in dense cities are among the least happy. Their rates of depression are 40 percent higher than other populations, and their rates of anxiety are 20 percent higher. Why? Because the built environment is directly linked with happiness and well-being, and too often urban environments fail to put people at ease.
Jennifer Toole, ASLA, is the founder and President of Toole Design and has over 30 years of experience planning and designing multimodal transportation systems. A certified planner with a degree in landscape architecture, Toole has a strong background in urban design. She has been involved in numerous projects of national significance for the Federal Highway Administration, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
American 19th-century sanitation engineer George E. Waring, Jr. was a miasmaist. He believed in the miasma theory, which holds that toxic vapors traveled through damp soil, rotted vegetation, and pools of standing water. These toxic vapors were understood to emanate from the Earth and interact with the atmosphere and cause disease in American cities.
In 2019 CMG Landscape Architecture founder Pamela Conrad launched Climate Positive Design in an effort to help landscape architects design and build projects that can become climate positive. In this interview originally published on The Dirt, Jared Green talks with Conrad about how this approach can make a big difference.
“When there is a convergence of crises, like we have now, there needs to be a convergence of solutions,” argued Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), at the 2020 GreenBuild conference. These solutions need to be net-zero in terms of energy and greenhouse gas emissions, regenerative, and reconnect humanity to nature. And while progress towards these solutions is now “irreversible,” we need to move much faster towards a net-zero world.
If you are in a place impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, spending 20 minutes experiencing nature in a park, street, or even your backyard can significantly reduce your stress levels. Just be sure to follow federal, state, and local guidelines and maintain social distancing of 6 feet or 2 meters. But even if you cannot or are unable to go outside, taking a break by opening a window and looking at a tree or plant can also help de-stress.