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OPEN GREEN SPACES, CRIME AND MENTAL HEALTH by Vernon De Leon

posted 29 Jan 2014, 08:44 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Jan 2014, 08:53 ]

Recent headlines have highlighted the two most major challenges currently confronting our society:

Today’s newspaper (Saturday 18th January)   registered our country’s 32nd murder victim.

  •  Last week, evidently in frustration at our nation’s mountainous public health bill and unavailability of adequate hospital beds, our Minister of Health described us as a sick and lazy Nation.

These articles were clearly not referring to Tacarigua! Although our community embodies and reflects the exact opposites of these two social problems, no one has thought about looking to Tacarigua, a peaceful community with a healthy life-style and culture, for the solutions to these problems

In the case of crime, our country’s leadership has instead opted to spend millions, pursuing the help of so-called experts from foreign lands. Additionally, our Minister of National Security   seems to be deluding himself into believing that he can solve crime by scaring the criminals with “big talk “and threats.

Our response, as a society, to our health problem, on the other hand, seems to be the ongoing proliferation of fast foods establishments and continued deprivation of communities of their longstanding and open green spaces.

 My own view is that these responses reflect leadership and decision makers who are the products  of an education system that evidently  omits focus on, and  development of, the  competency of critical thinking. As a consequence, our leaders and decision- makers seemingly think in vacuums and display an inability to link situations with results.


As well , whereas in developed societies, university students are at the fore-front of confronting and providing leadership on social issues , here in Trinidad and Tobago, ours are deafeningly silent , displaying total  apathy  and a lack of concern for issues such as “ Saving our Orange Grove Savannah” , other environmental issues and crime.

I wish to agree with, but to qualify somewhat, the statement of an eminent citizen that the professional class, with the exception of course of persons such as Carol James and Professor Cudjoe,  constitute the greatest betrayers of our society. Armed with their higher levels of qualifications, their preoccupation seems to be with filling their pockets and living lavish lifestyles rather than contributing to the enlightenment and development of our society.

Therefore, in the face of compelling and reliable evidence, compiled by eminent, reputable and international institutions, our leaders are adamant on imposing upon us in Tacarigua (even illegally and with bullying tactics) a multi-sport complex.

There is no concern that this so called “development”, because of the location chosen, will displace significant community users, and negatively impact our historical and communal way of life, our low crime rate, peaceful co-existence and our heritage.

Within the context of the positive impact of open green spaces on health reference is made to:

Research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health which say the positive  impact of open green spaces  is particularly noticeable in reducing rates of mental ill healthResearchers in VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, who examined the health records of 350,000 people registered with 195 family doctors across the Netherlands.    
Dr Jolanda Mass concluded:

” It clearly showed that green spaces are not just a luxury but they relate directly to diseases and the way people feel in their living environments.”

  • “Most of the diseases which are related to green spaces are diseases which are highly prevalent and costly to treat, so policy makers need to realize that this is

    something they may be able to diminish with green spaces.”

     

Professor Barbara Maher of the Lancaster Environment Centre said the study confirmed that green spaces create oases of improved health around them especially for children.

”……Anything that reduces our exposure to the modern-day “cocktail” of atmospheric pollutants has got to be a good thing”

The fact that open green spaces reduce crime was clearly borne out in the researches compiled by Landscape Ontario: These include:

A 30 year study conducted by researchers at Morton Arboretum, which  revealed that open green spaces lower crime and enhance self -esteem. (Self-esteem speaks to how you see and think about yourself. My own interaction with inmates at YTC have borne out that one’s self image has a lot to do with how one behaves).

  1.  A study published in Environment and Behavior that green spaces can boost children’s attentional resources and “…… may enable children to think more clearly and  cope more effectively with life’s stress”

  2. Studies conducted by the Human Environment Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois Urban, and at a Chicago public housing reveal that “Green spaces are gathering spaces that create close-knit communities and improve well-being-and in doing so, they increase safety”.


It is therefore ironic that they are seeking to confuse residents by advancing the same reasons as ours for justifying reduction and restriction of our already inadequate open green space for our expanded community. Don’t be confused with talk such as 85% of the sporting complex would be green. It would not be “OPEN GREEN SPACE”.

David Nakhid, in the Express of 29th November 2013, has provided us with a German model for enhancement of the Orange Grove Savannah, without displacement of community users, destruction of our aquifer, and risks of increased flooding. The emphasis is on micro projects in communities where facilities are state of the art, inclusive of pitches, lighting, and dressing rooms, concession areas, and managed by their own communities. Our own Dean Arlen has offered a similar development model.

As a community, we just cannot afford to lose our invaluable Orange Grove Savannah. We will pay a very regrettable and very heavy price, for generations to come, if we so do!




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