Why do we need urban green spaces? A new study by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences addressed that question from a scientific and evidence-based perspective. It pointed out that the percentage of people living in urban centers is expected to increase from 50% in 2010 to nearly 70% by 2050, resulting in what the study calls densiﬁcation. It goes on to say: “As migration to urban areas is ongoing globally, the need for sustainable urban development is becoming increasingly important. In an urban context this implies creation of both resource efﬁcient systems and good, engaging urban design for attractive cities with good quality of life. The study also stressed that this is a global issue related to economic development: “ Immense exploitation pressure on green space exists in rapidly expanding cities, especially in industrialising countries. Rapid loss of urban green spaces has been reported…and can be explained by removal of green space such as parks and street trees to make way for housing, industrial areas and grey infrastructure without other greening measures.” Quoted further in a related article, the researchers noted that “The loss of urban green space is rarely matched by the addition of more green space, potentially damaging the social value of these areas for decades to come. The good news is that positive changes are taking place even though they get scant exposure in the mainstream media. At the local level (arguably where substantive social change always begins), there is a countervailing movement to the forces of commercialization and runaway economic growth that threaten to go on their merry way without regard for urban quality of life. Living in the city can be a major obstacle to enjoying the beauty of nature but urban planners and nonprofit organizations are working to change that. Similar to the work of the Worcester Tree Initiative, other cities across the US are working on and have completed impressive sustainable urban green space projects. Doing a little research on this, I was both surprised and pleased to learn of the various initiatives taking place across the US. These projects don’t necessarily divide along political fault lines but can be found in cities such as Nashville, Houston, and Chicago. One of the more intriguing projects is in New York where an elevated train line has been resurrected as a walking trail and park. The track was threatened by demolition but designer Piet Oudolf came up with a brilliant win-win solution. According to an article on urban space development: “The High Line itself functions as a green roof with both plants and porous pathways absorbing water and limiting stormwater runoff. Drip irrigation, integrated pest management and composting demonstrate the park’s commitment to sustainability. And it wouldn’t be New York without an ample supply of art. Another interesting project is Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, described as “one of the more imaginative green spaces out there”. The park is essentially a five acre deck that sits over an eight lane highway and allows pedestrian and bicycle traffic to flow freely across the city, connecting the Dallas Uptown area with the city’s Arts District. There are many other such projects either underway or completed across the US including Millennium Park in Chicago which resurrected an industrial site and was designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry. These projects represent signs of a cultural shift and a new awareness springing up even as political implementations of the environmental movement have experienced a temporary but hopefully reversible setback. Perhaps the “greening of America” is too ambitious a phrase to apply at this time given all the bad environmental news. But even though positive change seems to come painfully slowly at times, we can see many glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel. – Tom Valovic —– —– —– —– —– —– Tom Valovic is a volunteer with the Worcester Tree Initiative and a freelance writer and editor. Tom has written articles for “The Boston Globe”, “The San Francisco Examiner”, “Annals of Earth”, “Whole Earth Review”, “Common Dreams” and many other publications. He has written about technology and its effects on our appreciation of the natural world in “Digital Mythologies”(Rutgers University Press). Tom can be reached at [email protected].