Enhancing the vitality of our communities through cleaner air
“Vitality – the power giving continuance of life, present in all living things.”
Our cities are giant, complex eco systems that occupy an increasingly sophisticated urban landscape and are an integrated mixture of natural and built environment. Their success relies on a delicate balance of commerce, politics and community but there is an increasing realisation that a city’s success as a place is heavily determined by its relationship with its natural environment.
It is now well understood that access to meaningful natural landscape has direct and valuable benefits to public health. When there are generous natural landscapes around, the increased opportunities for active travel, walking and cycling have been shown to positively affect our physical and mental wellbeing. The benefits of connecting with nature, observing seasons and the natural life cycles of flora and fauna cannot and should not be underestimated.
This shift towards more naturalised urban cityscapes is shaping how we design our urban neighbourhoods, broadening out the uses clustered in neighbourhoods, and city districts, reducing the distances that we need to travel to access leisure, business, medical, learning and social, ultimately creating a much more attractive lifestyle for all ages and abilities. Cities that offer these much more attractive lifestyles are better positioned to retain, nurture and attract talent, which in turn will attract jobs, businesses and investment.
One dominant metric defining these neighbourhoods which is particularly relevant today, on Clean Air Day, is the measure of air quality. The quality of our air is something that is directly correlated to the use of fossil fuel powered vehicles, the very means by which we currently service our lifestyles. To improve and really make change, we need to take the need for these vehicles out of our existing lifestyles. We need to redesign our streets so that they are healthier, safer and they encourage community. If we reduce our reliance on vehicles, we will create space for active travel and nature, while improving our public health and wellbeing. We will also see cities become more successful and enhance the vitality of our communities and the natural environment.