How much we missed green and nature during the
lockdown of Spring 2020?
A lot, and especially Italians missed this, at least
judging by the results of an European study in which the Institute for the
Bioeconomy of the National Research Council (NRC – Ibe) has participated.
The study, published on Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, is one of the first about the
role of urban green during the emergency and it was carried out with an online
questionnaire diffused by social networks and e-mail. They have been compared
the attendance and the perception of citizens about the urban green areas in
five European countries (Italy, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovenian, Spain) and in
Israel during the lockdown due to Covid-19, between 1 April and 3 May 2020.
“From 2.540 answers, a
differentiated attendance of urban areas between the countries emerged,
determined by different health limitations. Italy and Spain, for example, the
two countries most affected by the pandemic and with more stringent containment
measures, have registered the highest percentage (64%) of respondents who
stopped attending green areas. Citizens who did it had an essential reason,
like walking the dog or doing exercise, while Croatian, Lithuanian and
Slovenian substantially haven’t changed their habits. Moreover, health
limitations have led to a greater diversification of the type of green areas attended,
with the visitation of gardens and tree-lined streets (in Italy, Israel and
Spain)or urban parks, close to home only, while in other countries the use of
car to reach out of town areas has slightly increased, reflecting the dichotomy
between the need for greenery and the use, in our own context, of
un-eco-friendly vehicles”, said Francesca Ugolini, researcher of the NRC-Ibe and first
“Who never go out during
the lockdown, as in Italy, Israel and Spain, missed green areas a lot and only
the view of a wide landscape from the window has helped to reduce the sense of
deprivation”, continued Ugolini.
Citizens mainly complained about the impossibility of “being outdoors”
and “meeting other people” in green areas and, especially in Italy and Israel,
also the impossibility of “observing nature”. These perceptions highlight the important
social, environmental and cultural function of green areas as well as the
environmental sensitivity of the respondents.
In these regard, the study showed that the theme of
green is very close to citizens: the final open question about the connection
between urbanization, humans and nature, has gathered numerous thoughts that
prove both the awareness of the importance to respect and protect nature in
general and in particular to guarantee accessibility of a green area in an
urban environment. Many suggestions have concerned some governance
practicalities: an urban planning that integrates various types of easily
accessible green areas in the urban fabric and a management that guarantees
their quality, both in terms of choice of species and of maintenance. In
addition to this, other suggestions have called for green mobility and more
inclusion of citizens and their opinions in the decision-making processes.
study shows how the quality of life in residential fabrics is related to the
presence of accessible green areas, even more during a social emergency and
isolation phase. “This study has highlighted the importance of urban green
areas for citizens, especially in a time of crisis like this. Urban green makes
cities more comfortable and it is therefore desirable that politics and
planning take into account the suggestions emerged”, concluded Ugolini.