Elche and Cartagena are among the greenest cities in Europe: the importance of not “gentrifying” your trees

Elche and Cartagena are among the greenest cities in Europe: the importance of not “gentrifying” your trees, Trees help reduce atmospheric pollutants, mitigate the urban heat island effect and reduce stress and sleep disturbances by providing a buffer against traffic noise. When we think of a green and sustainable city, the majestic parks, compact designs and streets full of bicycle lanes of cities like Copenhagen or come to mind Paris. They can often seem like a showcase for urban livability, especially compared to their sprawling, car-centric counterparts like the United States, etc.

But a new Institute study Barcelona Global Health Council (ISGlobal) paints a picture of an urban Europe where a general lack of green spaces could shorten the lives of tens of thousands of residents. And Spain has a lot at stake there.

The study. Analyzing more of 1.000 cities of more than 100. 000 residents throughout the continent, the ISGlobal study , published in The Lancet Planetary Health , suggests that European cities could prevent 43, 000 deaths per year if they followed the World Health Organization guidelines. on access to green spaces. But more than 61% of urban residents studied lacked access to vegetation recommended by the WHO: at least 0.5 hectares of space green within a linear distance of 320 meters of each home.

To calculate the quantity of green spaces in each city, the researchers used a graphical indicator that uses satellite images within a given area. The study then mapped the deaths on images derived from the NDVI of the cities studied and other factors that could influence the expectation of residents’ lives, such as a higher population or lower income levels to link the number of premature deaths an area experienced with its proportion of green spaces.

Results. The study’s ranking has surprises: some winners and perhaps unexpected losers. Several cities known for their beauty and pleasant surroundings fare poorly, while others with a less glamorous reputation fare surprisingly well. The main offenders include tourist magnets such as the Italian cities of Trieste and Turin and the Danish capital, Copenhagen. From Spain, we find the city of Gijón and A Coruña in sad positions 3 and 9 of the list with higher mortality due to lack of green spaces.

However, the former coal mining towns of Rotherham (United Kingdom) and Wałbrzych (Poland) appear among the 10 cities with the best proportion and distribution of green spaces in their urban areas. But the most curious of all is that of the entire list, the Spanish city of Elche is the one with the least mortality or lack of spaces green has . Also the Canarian municipality Telde or the Valencian city of Alicante.

Top 10 European cities with the lowest mortality due to the lack of green spaces.

Your green areas should be diversified. If only the capitals are analyzed, the results are not so good. Despite having many notable parks, Paris has the fourth highest level of mortality related to the lack of green space of any European capital. Copenhagen fares even worse , at number two, only behind Brussels . The main reason for this low score is not because they lack parks, but because those parks are poorly distributed to provide equal access for all. And let’s say they have a “green space gap” between the wealthiest residents who live in leafy areas and the poorest populations in areas that lack green space.

The study from ISGlobal leaves us another important message that underlines the WHO guidelines: the problem of causing “gentrification green”. Housing costs rise dramatically in areas adjacent to attractive new green spaces, displacing low-income residents to cheaper and less healthy areas. To be most effective, green spaces must go where the people are, infiltrating dense areas like a genuinely sprawling mosaic across the city.

Top 10 European cities with the highest mortality due to lack of green spaces.

Why what? The treeless design of many historic European cities means that densely populated urban centers can end up an unhealthy distance from vegetation, even if their density provides residents with many other environmental and economic benefits. So while Paris may contain generous parks, it also has many high-density areas with no major green space nearby. In general, the 86, 46% of the inhabitants of the metropolitan area live in places that do not comply with the WHO guidelines .

Another factor may be slightly skewing the results. “Cities that have a lot of water within their borders often do not do well, because where there is water there is no green.” These bodies of water can offer some reward for well-being, explains one of the study’s authors. Although there is not as much data yet on the health benefits of “blue spaces” . Therefore, the rankings of cities linked to water, such as Trieste and Copenhagen, could be a little worse than they deserve. Similarly, cities that do poorly in providing green space may do better in other public health measures, such as reducing air pollution.

Image: Unsplash

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