Big cities are getting bigger and bigger. Concrete and asphalt spread across the landscape like a heavy carpet. And the consequences are more than you might think.
A new study estimates that the lack of close access to green spaces in European cities can lead to unnecessary deaths.
Analyzer shows that about 43,000 people die as a result of this every single year.
In Norway, too, human lives could have been saved if we had more green lungs in our largest cities, the survey shows.
– It is an important study that looks at the connections between health and urban nature, says David Barton to NRK. He is a senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Natural Research (NINA).
Has used satellite imagery
It is a group of researchers from Spain who have started the project. By analyzing and retrieving data from more than a thousand European cities, they have managed to find out which ones have the highest and lowest mortality rates that come with lack of green spaces.
The study has used recommendations from the World Health Organization as a starting point. Among other things, these mean that all residents should have a park less than 300 meters from their own door.
31 different countries are included in the study. This includes the 27 member states of the EU as well as Norway, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Iceland.
To calculate mortality, researchers have used and index called Normalized difference Vegetation index (NDVI). This is how they have been able to measure how green and area are using satellite images. Each area is divided into squares of 250 by 250 meters.
The results are compared with death rates for the inhabitants of the city. Among the cities with the highest mortality, we find and number of well-known tourist destinations.
Several studies have documented that it is near green areas that have a positive health effect. Both physically and mentally.
People who live in areas of green areas are less stressed, more active and longer. It can also lead to better sleep, as well as improved heart and lung health.
In addition, green lungs help to improve air quality, which in turn ensures that fewer lives are lost.
In total, the researchers estimate that approximately 60 percent of residents in this study have a poor approach to images of areas.
The vast majority of capitals in Europe come out poorly. The worst situation is in Athens, Budapest, Brussels, Copenhagen and Riga. According to the new analyzes, Oslo is also in a rather bad position.
Here, the researchers believe that 105 annual deaths could have been prevented.
– Oslo comes out unlucky
Grete Waaseth is a plant researcher and has previous experience with the subject.
-It’s the basis of this 300-meter is interesting. Especially with children and people with disabilities in mind. Green areas are important for everyone, and then it is good to make these facilities, she says to NRK.
Senior researcher David Barton thinks Oslo comes out worse in the survey than they actually deserve.
He says the calculation formula used in the study is unfortunate for the Norwegian capital.
– Here, the same measurements have been used in 900 different cities in Europe, and Oslo is a slightly different city than most. Then I think first and foremost of simultaneous access to the field. It is perhaps more than 300 meters from some buildings, but at the same time you can have a good approach to many more than is taken into account in the study, he says.
Recommend green roofs and vertical gardens
Based on the results of the study, Norway could have avoided about 200 deaths a year if we could recommend recommendations from the World Health Organization.
Mark Nieuwenhuijsen is one of the researchers on the project. He believes that this should be done and measures taken to change the situation.
Among other things, he proposes nature-based solutions such as green roofs and vertical gardens.
Researchers also believe that parts of the traffic should be laid outside the cities so that one can dig up the asphalt and replace these areas with parks and trees.
– If more cities had the goal of meeting these requirements, a number of deaths could have been prevented, the researcher says.
Not relevant for «blue nature»
A weakness with the study is that the researchers have not looked at the effect that blue areas have on health. By this is meant access to rivers, oceans and lakes.
Grete Waaseth thinks this is unfortunate.
– In very many Norwegian cities you have access to blue nature, whether it is a port area, a beach or a river. So here I actually think it has a lot to say.
I also have the opportunity to investigate whether there are differences in the study. Some neighborhoods come out well, even if the city settles under a can wear.