The Power of Green Space

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This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose, in our backyards, playgrounds and parks!  Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.

How Walking In Nature Changes The Brain is the headline that got me thinking about my good old pal from college Henry David, that is, Thoreau, and specifically about his essay, On Walking, written in 1862, in which he said that walking in the woods is not leisure, but “itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.” How prescient Thoreau was! He intuited the power of green space!

Walking in nature is currently a new (old) prescription for our physical and emotional well-being. Scientists Have Discovered That Living Near Trees Is Good For Your Health. 

It is my goal — now that I am back in town —  to walk from my house overland in Owings Mills to the library at the place developers are calling Metro Centre, a place that the Metro Centre website declares, “is reminiscent of the small-town Main Street of yesteryear, combining elements of old-fashioned charm with trend-setting excitement.” (We should all be distrustful of anything this Disneyfied, but I digress…)

Marketing-ease aside, what I want to know is where is the green space at Metro Centre? Amid “the mixed-use, Transit-Oriented Development that is comprised of 1.2 million square feet of commercial office space; 300,000 square feet of complementary retail space; 1700 residential units; Baltimore County Community College & Baltimore County Library totaling 120,000 square feet and a Boutique Hotel offering up to 250 rooms with meeting and special event opportunities” where is the conversation about trees? Where, in fact, are the trees?  What’s the plan for the power of green space?

I don’t want what James Howard Kunstler (in his hilarious, cutting, and super-smart TED lecture tirade) calls the “nature band-aids” of a few thin dwindly plants in pots, a stamp-size of overzealous grass inviting no one to picnic. I mean a proper biophilic experience, one that to walk in decreases our cortisol, increases our interaction, slows us down contentedly to shop in the “300,000 feet of retail space,”  — hey I have an idea!

It’s an assortment of trees, some of them fruiting, public gardens, artful landscaping. A habitat for people. We humans at this point in our history know how to do these things, right? I’m reading a book right now about urban design called Happy City by Charles Montgomery.  He writes about “Green Interventions.” They can be quite simple. How about a “landscaped nook”? A toe-deep reflecting pool? Montgomery writes, “[In the urban landscape] We have more room for nature that we might think.”

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