Green Space and Public Health

grass and trees

Abstract:  Persistent structural racial inequalities have prompted activism and protest for as many generations as inequality has blighted the United States. Deaths from police violence are part of a larger lethal pattern affecting certain sectors of our population. The coronavirus has revealed just how dangerous it is for communities to be structured in ways that compromise the health and well-being of certain residents. Inequitable living and working conditions help explain the high hospitalization rate and deaths among African-Americans during this pandemic. Just as COVID-19 is striking hardest people of color in our country, these same sectors of our population usually have the most difficult time reaching - or feeling welcome or safe in - the green spaces that would help them maintain their health. “The Many Benefits of Parks,” examines how we can prioritize the things that work to keep our whole population healthy, and how we can improve the situations that clearly leave some sectors of our population at higher risk for health complications. Providing equitable access to nature is one more way to help fulfill the United States’ democratic ideal by strengthening community and individual well-being.

Teaching suggestions:

12th Grade (Gov) – How is equitable access to public amenities protected in our Constitution?  What specific government measures are appropriate to support human health and community well-being?

12th Grade (Econ) – How can environmental protection measures (such as anti-pollution regulations or preserving green space) influence a state or region’s economy? How can a healthy or an unhealthy environment impact a community’s economy?

10th and 11th Grade History – How are different U.S. demographic sectors experiencing this pandemic? How are developing countries meeting the challenges presented by COVID-19? How do wealth and poverty factor into COVID-19 infection and fatality statistics?

5th/8th Grade History – How did European settlers change the landscape of the United States? How did these landscapes alter people’s relationship to nature?

3rd/4th Grade History – How does where we live influence our lives, our health, our opportunities?