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HOW URBAN GREENING POSITIVELY AFFECTS COMMUNITIES

One of our missions at the studio is to turn Brighton and Hove green. We want to revamp grey urban work places, uplift asphalt-covered school playgrounds and breathe life into dull dreary streets and roads.

We believe that having access to nature and planting even just a few trees in built-up towns and cities impacts society in a positive way. We think it brings crime down, improves mental health and wellbeing and gives people a better sense of community.

If you look at the amount of time we have been on the earth, we have only lived in urban dwellings for a tiny amount of it. Before that, we lived in a natural world relying on nature for food and shelter. So it makes sense that we would, naturally, be pulled towards nature, plants, trees and green spaces.

Ming Kuo is an American psychologist who, for more than 30 years, has studied the effects of nature on humans. She provides evidence of this in a Hidden Brain podcast hosted by Shankar Vedantam. This is what she says:

Community
Kuo studied the occupants who lived in identical public housing apartments in Chicago. The occupants were from the same socioeconomic background, but their apartments were either surrounded by a green space, or not. Kuo found that those who lived in apartments that had little or no green space had more aggressive behaviour and less community engagement.

Crime
Kuo also says that research from Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania found that by ‘cleaning and greening’ an area, i.e. taking out the rubbish, cleaning up cigarette butts, putting in lawns and trees, gun crime went down by 9.1%. These findings are consistent with US police reports.

It has been well reported that knife crime is increasing in the UK, so these simple and relatively inexpensive measures could be a way of helping to keep our own communities safer.

Mental health and wellbeing
Looking at mental health and wellbeing, Kuo said that a study of London pharmacies found that people from similar socioeconomic backgrounds but who lived in neighbourhoods with less greenery were being subscribed substantially larger mood medications than those that lived in greener areas.

Access to nature also has an affect on our long-term health outcomes and there is a relationship between greenery and our immune systems. This was proved by researchers who found that if people took a three day weekend out in nature, they had an increase, on average, of 50% Natural Killer cells (NK cells). NK cells are immune system cells that help the body fight infection. They found that thirty days later, these people were still roughly 24-25% above the baseline of NK cells.

This is just a small snapshot of research, but we think it proves that being out in nature and living close to trees and green spaces will only ever have a positive impact on our health.

Is there an area near you that is in need of urban greening? We'd love to hear about it! Tell us on Twitter @nickdexter_uk or Instagram @nicholasdexterstudio.

You can listen to the interview with Ming Kuo and Shankar Vedantam on the National Public Radio (NPR) website: https://www.npr.org/2018/09/10/646413667/our-better-nature-how-the-great-outdoors-can-improve-your-life?t=1539166997540&t=1539677893021

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