The Value of Green Space: Fostering Social Bonds and a Healthier Community.

Photo from daveheidebrecht.com

Photo from daveheidebrecht.com

Author’s Note: This is the second installment in a series of articles featuring the Dundas EcoPark Campaign. My intention is to explain what the project is, who is involved, and why the project is important for the surrounding areas. 

The Dundas EcoPark provides a vast amount of green space, which can contribute to a healthier, happier, and more connected community.  Green space often serves as a social “middle-ground” where all citizens, regardless of their social standing, can enjoy their free time in community. In the absence of this area of green space, Hamilton would lose an important avenue for relaxation, social gathering, and an escape from city-life.

The Environmental News Network has found that those who live in close proximity to green spaces “engaged in more social activities and knew more about their neighbours.” Those same individuals claimed their neighbours “were more concerned about supporting one another and had stronger feelings of belonging.” These societal trends suggest that green space alters the traditional social hierarchy and promotes social equilibrium. The idea that nature treats all humans equally, no matter their social standing, appears to influence communities’ interactions with one another. The inherent impartiality of nature seemingly “rubs-off” on individuals, leading to cooperation and empathy between community members.

Constructing a neighbourhood that is safe for everyone seems to be of greater importance for those near green space, but why? Perhaps when living in such an ecologically valuable area, everyone wants to keep it that way. A commitment to preserving the area and ensuring it is not misused or damaged is an interesting social reaction. Green space fosters a connection between community residents and the natural environment, thus allowing for a more livable city. This symbiotic relationship is essential in order for a community to be sustainable.

In terms of social gathering, the EcoPark can help develop a strong sense of community. This sense of community effectively strengthens our connection to other Hamiltonians and creates solidarity amongst citizens (not to mention that green space can provide an area for meeting new friends who share a passion for nature). Although the green space may initially draw nature-minded citizens, eventually more Hamiltonians will become aware of the natural oasis and experience it for themselves. In doing so, it could influence them to become more environmentally aware and recognize the ecological beauty we have in Hamilton. Establishing and cultivating these social bonds is necessary to protect our natural areas.

The EcoPark can also contribute to a healthier & more homeopathic approach to living. Since we are also part of the Earth’s ecosystem, anything we do to the natural environment has an impact on us. Our relationship with, and subsequent interaction with nature, seems to be the glue that connects us to the larger ecosystem. Although the wilderness may appear chaotic, everything is doing its job and is in the right place. Nature can bring you outside of yourself and help you step back from the problems you may have in your life. As I take a walk on a crisp fall morning, I can feel my stress melt away. The grandness of nature puts my everyday problems into perspective and helps me to organize my thoughts. There is a therapeutic aura to nature that helps shift one’s consciousness and never fails to refresh the mind.

Although building a relationship with the wilderness has become less frequent, we must remember: coexisting with nature is just as important for us as it is for nature. By replacing green space with brick and mortar we are actually losing an important human resource. Green space provides a space for social gathering, for fostering relationships, for strengthening communities, and for improving our well-being. The trees and shrubs we are paving over are not inconsequential; they are essential for building livable, vibrant communities. We must protect and promote our valuable green space in Hamilton as it serves us more than we know.

For more information about the Dundas EcoPark Campaign, click here.