An international team led by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) has verified how green spaces contribute to the well-being of city dwellers in a study that focused on four megalopolises in Asia. For this, the study was based on a list of nine “protected needs” that society has the capacity to satisfy. The conclusions of the work demonstrate that the parks satisfy almost all of these needs to varying degrees, highlighting three in particular: “living in a pleasant environment”, “developing as a person” and “being part of a community”.
The research, published in the Journal of Public Space, reveals that we all have the ability to assess our well-being using this list of essential needs. It also shows that parks play an essential role in the well-being of people, regardless of their social class, and that they cannot be replaced by other places where people are located, such as shopping malls. In fact, when these parks are closed, as during the COVID-19 pandemic, inequalities in well-being intensify.
As parks are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, inequalities in well-being intensify
Public parks mean many things to many people: a space free from housework and patriarchal expectations, a place to cultivate friendship or love, a place where you can experience a feeling of freedom that is absent elsewhere, an opportunity to “ visiting ”trees in a country you haven’t seen in a long time, a way to be part of a group while sitting alone on your bench, or even, for some, the perfect setting for running a small business that allows you to get ahead. Public parks are all this and much more if we look at the responses of the inhabitants of the four Asian megacities –Chennai (India), Singapore, Manila (Philippines) and Shanghai (China) – who were interviewed as part of this recently published study. . From green spaces, we can learn and obtain much more than simple benefits for biodiversity and health: they also satisfy numerous other essential human needs that are the key to sustainable well-being, a concept based on a combination of personal well-being and needs. of sustainable development.
The nine capital needs of human well-being
“There are many theories that try to define human well-being,” begins Marlyne Sahakian, a professor in the Department of Sociology. at the UNIGE Faculty of Social Sciences and the first author of the study. For which, “instead of using subjective notions such as happiness, we use a list of nine ‘protected needs’ recently developed by colleagues from the University of Basel. These needs correspond to what society can offer the population through the public sector. This list of protected needs is the result of an analysis of the scientific literature and was validated among the Swiss population and by panels of experts ”.
In concrete terms, this list is made up of the following nine elements:
The availability of goods that satisfy vital needs.
Turn your life ideals into reality.
Live in a pleasant environment.
Do those activities that you value.
Being part of a community.
Take part in decisions about the future of society.
Feeling protected by society.
Armed with this list, researchers from the four named Asian cities and co-authors of the study asked residents about their use of public parks and the benefits it brought them. Analysis of their responses showed that ordinary people can assess their well-being using these protected needs, making a distinction between what they need and what they want. “This suggests that meeting human needs is a social goal that can be discussed by various groups of people around the world,” says Professor Sahakian before adding: “This has implications for urban planning measures designed to ensure well-being sustainable for all, for the present and the future. In cities in South Asia in particular, the parks, which offer a naturally cool and shady microclimate, are a precious alternative to other entertainment venues, such as air-conditioned shopping malls. ”
Green spaces of inclusion instead of exclusion
The research, which was supported by the Swiss Network for International Studies, also found that the use of green spaces meets all protected needs to a certain extent. However, three of these needs (3, 4, and 7) scored significantly higher than the others. “Going to the park is a social activity that requires more than just a green space, argues Professor Sahakian. People do different kinds of things in parks to satisfy the same need, such as exercising, chatting with other people, reading a book, meeting a group, or learning about biodiversity. “They are very inclusive spaces, where there is easy access for everyone, unlike what happens in shopping centers, which can operate a fairly strong form of social segregation.”
The expert adds that “in the immediate context of a post-COVID-19 environment, where public spending will probably be more limited than before, it is even more important to maintain the infrastructure of the parks (access to water points, restrooms, trails , etcuncer the needs of all “” as in the phase 2 face-to-face development from 8am to 3pm “time) and guarantee access so that they can continue to meet the needs of all”.