For equitable access to urban green spaces

March 01, 2024

Also based on some widely cited studies from Northern Europe, most researchers (including us) have implicitly assumed there was a general increase in the use of green spaces. A question of prosperityWorking with a multilingual team, we systematically analysed the literature on the changing use of urban green spaces during and after the COVID-19 lockdowns from 2020 to 2022. Our review made it to the front page of the external pageNature Citiescall_made journal.3Our analysis actually reveals a surprisingly large discrepancy in the use of green spaces in different parts of the world. Urban green is distributed unevenlyThis means that not everyone in cities and regions has the same access to green spaces. This raises important questions about the equitable distribution of green spaces in urban planning.

Also based on some widely cited studies from Northern Europe, most researchers (including us) have implicitly assumed there was a general increase in the use of green spaces. This is also because people’s need for outdoor exercise was a lot greater than before the pandemic given that they were working from home, schools were closed and nobody could travel.

But there were hundreds of other publications on the subject worldwide – and they paint a contradictory picture: while there was a surge in use of green spaces in some places, it declined in others. It soon became evident that there was no clear consensus.

A question of prosperity

Working with a multilingual team, we systematically analysed the literature on the changing use of urban green spaces during and after the COVID-19 lockdowns from 2020 to 2022. We identified and comparatively analysed 178 studies on the subject in 5 languages, from 60 countries and in over 3,000 articles. Our review made it to the front page of the external pageNature Citiescall_made journal.3

Our analysis actually reveals a surprisingly large discrepancy in the use of green spaces in different parts of the world. We can largely attribute these differences to financial prosperity. We show that people in wealthier areas are making increasing use of green spaces, while those in poorer regions are making a lot less use of them.

Urban green is distributed unevenly

This means that not everyone in cities and regions has the same access to green spaces. Social inequality is consequently manifested in two ways: people who either lived in affluent areas or owned private gardens (or both) were able to compensate for the restrictions by engaging in more outdoor activities. While those without such opportunities had to do without these health and well-being benefits.

This raises important questions about the equitable distribution of green spaces in urban planning. If we want to prevent an increasing number of people from opting to live in a safe house complete with a garden in the suburbs, we need to fundamentally change the way we design our cities.

The source of this news is from ETH Zurich

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