health

Digital tools for creating network of urban health through remnant parcels

Local Code / Real Estates from Nicholas de Monchaux.

Interesting video by Nicholas de Monchaux, Architecture Professor at the University of California at Berkeley. He uses digital information to identify city-owned “remnant parcels,” and describes their potential to create a network of health and social welfare, an immune system for urban life in the the 21st century. In San Francisco, he identifies 1,500 parcels, the size of Golden Gate park, and visualizes how these spaces could be used as networked green spaces.

Morning glory green curtain in front of 3331 Arts Chiyoda

3331 Arts Chiyoda is a cool art space recently created by the Chiyoda ward government. They converted an old junior high school into exhibition galleries, art studios, and creative industry offices. In addition to a beautiful remodel of the unused school building, the ward also refurbished a small park at the entrance.

Katsuhiko Hibino created this  created this beautiful morning glory green curtain rising on the front side of 3331 Arts Chiyoda. Called the Asatte Asago project, the morning glory seeds here had been taken to space by Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamasaki. The project involves community gardening and sharing across different regions of Japan.

Other green projects at 3331 Arts Chiyoda include Chaco Kato’s”Slow Wheat” project at the cafe, with wheat grass plants that will be used as a health drink. The art space is also offering small vegetable plots on the school’s rooftop. If you live nearby, check it out!

On August 21, 2010, Chris Berthelsen of Fixes and I will lead a bilingual interactive workshop on greening the city from 7 to 9 pm. More details will appear soon. The same day, Kato-san will be teaching a beginner’s compost class in the late afternoon.

Benefits of corporate gardens

Great New York Times story about benefits of corporate gardens, including Pepsi-Co and Aveda. Improves worker morale, eating, health, and informal conversation across departments. Why doesn’t every company create a small edible garden? By adding native plants to storefronts and walls, and giving small plants to customers, corporations can brand themselves and create distributed habitat, too.

Ho Chi Minh City loses 50% of green space in 11 years

Ho Chi Minh City’s Park and Greenery Office reports a 50% loss of green space in the past 11 years. Blame is attributed to developers ignoring city requirements for green space. The calculation includes parks, flower gardens, and road-side plants.

There are some interesting statistics. Currently there is .7 square meters of green space per person in the 7 million person city. The city’s goal is 4 to 5 square meters per person. The World Health Organization has set a global standard of 8 square meters per person.

This story illustrates the rapid rate of urbanization in Asia, the importance of green space as a health issue, and the difficulties of balancing urban development and human health.

JR Stations, Blue Lights and Suicide prevention

JR Yamanote line

There was an interesting article about how East Japan Railways has installed special blue LED lights in all 29 stations of the central Yamanote loop line as a measure to reduce suicide. And Keihin Electric Express Railway Company, operating in Tokyo and Yokohama, has installed blue lights in two stations.

Six percent of all Japanese suicides, more than 2,000 per year, take place in stations by people jumping in front of trains.

There is no scientific evidence that these lights will help, although some experts are quoted as saying that blue lights have a calming effect. The cost was US$165,000.

I wonder why Japan Railways did not consider installing plants on their platforms. Plants on elevated lines would receive some natural light, and native plants would contribute to the urban ecosystem.

It would be great to see such a planted platform on even one Yamanote station, and investigate whether a live platform contributes to any decrease in what is euphemistically called “human accidents.” It seems strange that technology solutions receive quicker funding than simpler natural solutions that would have a multiplier effect in terms of benefiting all passengers and the environment.

Creating a common vision for green cities

governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and 2009 California budget deal

Reading about the drastic budget cuts in my home state of California makes me wonder about the potential future of green cities in that state and in the United States. After months of political deadlock, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a divided state Congress agreed on $US 30 billion in cuts over two years to schools, colleges, health, welfare, prisons, recreation and other services.

A New York Times analysis quotes University of California, Berkeley professor of political science Bruce E. Cain saying, “In the end, we do not know for sure whether the California public really wants the California dream anymore. The population is too diverse to have a common vision of what it wants to provide to everyone. Some people want the old dream, some want the gated privatized version, and some would like to secede and get away from it all.”

The conventional wisdom that California or the United States has no “common vision” reflects a political and cultural deficit, and will create more long-term damage than the economic downtown. For many government and educational authorities, diversity makes a convenient excuse for an unwillingness to invest in social programs that broadly benefit the public good. Nostalgia for previous boom times obscures the massive investment and cultural change needed to create green and sustainable cities.

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