Green urban spaces for more than just aesthetics

Rizal Park, Manila, Philippines. Image by Fabio Achilli.

By Johanna Caresse Eusebio, the Philippines

Economic growth over ecological health

In lower-income countries such as the Philippines, economic development has always been entangled with the idea of numerous blue infrastructures surrounding the cities. Over the past years as a BS Forestry student, I have grasped the idea of the importance of environmental health as it affects the ability of the ecosystem to provide goods and services as well as mitigate the global climate crisis. The overall environmental health of the country should not be sacrificed for the sake of the false premise that the lack of blue infrastructure may mean stagnant economic growth. 

Lack of green spaces and their inaccessibility

Since I started using remote sensing imaging to generate maps in my undergraduate courses, the reality of the dwindling green spaces in highly urbanized cities such as Metro Manila has never been clearer to me. In a recent report by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, only 12 percent of the land areas in greater Manila count as green spaces, the majority of which are not open to the public. Moreover, public green spaces are poorly managed by local governments, which puts them at risk of deforestation and infrastructure development. In the midst of the global pandemic, where poorly ventilated areas are considered a risk for rapid spread of infection, the urgent need for open green spaces has intensified.

Studying environmental science has opened my mind to the fact that we often mistake closed cities filled with skyscrapers for economic growth. Prior to university, I was guilty of equating blue infrastructure with economic growth, even at the cost of green spaces. Over time, I realized that natural ecosystems should not be sacrificed and exploited for the sake of capitalism and urban development. The Philippine Government also fails to recognize the potential benefits of urban green spaces in major cities. As such, the promotion of green spaces reduces both air and noise pollution in the cities as well as lessens the vehicle emissions for urban transportation. The status quo in urban development in the country is mainly in favor of the establishment of highways and expressways that favor privately owned vehicles thus hindering the development of a more pedestrian-friendly community.

Faced with worsening global warming and rapid climate change, isn’t it time to change our ancient perception of what genuine development looks like? Undoubtedly, the integration of green spaces into cities will decrease the likelihood of intense urban heat island temperatures, making our cities more livable while mitigating the effects of increased greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, walkable cities will most likely decrease vehicle emissions, together with the promotion of a more sustainable means of mass transportation. With the help of urban forestry and through the establishment of urban green spaces, we can make green walkable spaces that can connect one city to another. 

The need for better urban planning was intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The strict quarantine regulations made the public realize the value of green spaces for their physical and mental well-being. It’s high time that we scrap the idea that public green spaces are a privilege accessible only to the elite minority. 

Future of urban green spaces

Moving forward, the protection and conservation of our ecosystems are vital in maintaining the remaining vegetation in urban cities. The integration of nature in city infrastructures, such as public parks and ecotourism recreational areas, may contribute to the goal of reducing the inaccessibility of these areas. 

Given the role of green spaces in public health during the global pandemic, the overall design of these green spaces should include the needs of minorities such as differently-abled people, children, as well as economically disadvantaged individuals. Over time, urban green spaces will be recognized as a public good, and be part of promoting climate change mitigation, public health, and sustainable development goals. Regardless of social and economic class, the benefits of urban forests and green vegetation, especially in highly urbanized cities, should be made accessible to everyone.

This blog was submitted as part of the #WFCKorea blog competition

The first selection of competition finalists will be based on the number of comments, likes, and views each entry gets. Please consider supporting this entry by:

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Featured image: Fabio Achilli

44 thoughts on “Green urban spaces for more than just aesthetics

  1. The lack of green spaces in greater Manila really makes it difficult to embrace “urban developments”

  2. I agree with the points that had been said, especially considering that development had been redefined to include environmental sustainability (aside from economic growth and social inclusion)

  3. this is actually true for my experience since only malls are nearby our house and no green spaces anywhere!

  4. Great take on green spaces. This makes me remember the importance or arroceros park in manila. It was just in risk of being cut down!

  5. I agree. now more than ever, there is a need to increase green spaces especially when global warming is prevalent.

  6. real problems. especially the accessibility. sadly, there is class divide even with these basic commodities.

  7. Great insight. I have too been long associated tall skyscrapers with development. But, much better if we dont compromise our foreests just to get economic development! Very timely today

  8. hmmm. would also love to see buildings in manila with ephyphitic plants? I guess we should plant more trees in the buildiing as well! WIll probably alleviate the scorching heat in this tropical country.

  9. imagine if there are public parks and other urban forest areas accessible to everyone in the world! what a sight

  10. Its not too late. more than establishing new green space, i really wish extensive efforts are done to conserve what we currently have!

  11. EMPHASIS ON TAKING CARE OF THE HEALTH OF THE ENVIRONMENT! we should protect the remaining vegetation we have at all costs

  12. Yes to sustainable development goals! these spaces will also contribute to climate change mitigation efforts in the country!

  13. great input. how will we do this knowing that majority of our cities have already established buildings?

  14. Sadly, it took a global pandemic for us to realize that walkable cities with lots of green spaces will also contribute to the overall well being of the citizens 😦

  15. #WorldForestVoices thanks for being a platform for various stories regarding the forestry sector. Never did I realize that there are such thing as urban forests!

  16. truly, we realize the importance of nature once it is now inaccessible to many. open more public parks. plant more trees. lets take care of nature together! ❤

  17. love hanging out to chill in parks! its alsoa way to meditate, eat with friends with a picnic, read a book, listen to music or just appreciate nature all in all! This inspired to take up more environmental science courses in relation to urban forestry

  18. “Lack of green spaces and their inaccessibility” litertally double kill. It hurts that some of our citizens are unable to access these green spaces!

  19. Green spaces are must to include in our urban development plans! Urban forestry is a must in the further ecological development of the cities.

  20. Dont prioritize economic growth in the expense of the environment! It would take centuries to bring back our forest cover. We should think about that before cutting down any tree.

  21. Emphasis on sustainable mass transportation. Greener means of transportation such as bikes or even walking, makes it easier to decrease greenhouse gas emissions that will then help our forests recover. Yes to convenient, sustainable mass transportation.

  22. #WFCKorea blog competition so cool! urban spaces are indeed more than just aesthetics! I hope we both realize the importance of green spaces as well a ecotourism spots not just for recreational activities but our mental health too!

  23. I also have read from other sources that Korea has been implementing greener cities thus they are walkable and pedestrian friendly. They also have a great mass transportation system. Coming from the Philippines, The WFC Korea will be great opportunity for Filipino envi science students and professionals!

  24. GREEN SPACE SHOULD BE made accessible to everyone. Equal opportunities for all please. We are all victims of the global pandemic, it is in this time that we badly need to help each other out. Make these spaces available for public use. Encourage urban planners to make urban forestry a must!

  25. As part of the youth that want to go outside often, green spaces makes it easier to interact with other people despite the scare of the virus. Open spaces makes it less likely to be infected with COVID, thus I am encouraged to participate in taking care of our forests!

  26. Looking forward to the future where there is a balance between urban green spaces (which is of course should be accessible to everyone) and building or residential areas. Hoping for a better tomorrow! #WFCKorea blog competition.

  27. Manila would be a beautiful place if it was more pedestrian-friendly. Also, considering its high population density, it would help the decrease the high heat temperatures being experience in noon time!

  28. I dont know about you, but i really agree that we should be leaning towards opening green spaces as to lessen screen time as well!

  29. I’ve never thought about cities and urban forestry that way before. You made me see it totally differently. I love that!

  30. The integration of nature in city infrastructures, such as public parks and ecotourism recreational areas, may contribute to the goal of reducing the inaccessibility of these areas. Agree with this statement. Remove the class divide and make it available for anyone to use and enjoy! 🙂

  31. That paragraph was really well organized. That goal will really help you push for sustainable development in the future! no to tall skyscrapers yes to green parks public spaces

  32. hi! #WorldForestVoices. I hope this get discussed in WFC Korea as Ive been watching a lot of KDRAMA and they really have green spaces in the cities thus may encourage other countries to practice this as well

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