Why we need green spaces in COVID-19 era
UNSW Associate Professor Paul Osmond is urging people to soak up nature on balconies, gardens or exercise in parks during COVID-19.
“We need nature, at a minimum for viewing, but ideally through immersion and interaction,” the lecturer from UNSW Built Environment says.
“Particularly now, as a way of de-stressing and preserving mental health.”
He refers to Nature-Deficit Disorder which was first mentioned by US author Richard Louv in his 2005 book titled Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.
The non-fiction writer coined the term to enable talk about research which proved the negative effects on human health when people were removed from nature.
The Associate Professor says research shows there are also improvements for children in learning, and adults’ workplace productivity levels increase when they have a connection to the natural world.
Assoc. Prof. Osmond says people should not reinterpret the ‘stay at home’ message to mean they have to ‘stay inside’ here in Australia, unless they are under quarantine.
“It’s perfectly okay to go outside, as long as you’re maintaining the 1.5 metres of social distancing,” he says.
Assoc. Prof. Osmond says being surrounded by nature improves the immune system, and a person’s physical and mental health by alleviating issues such as stress and anxiety.
But being “somewhat sealed up inside a house or an apartment” can lead to ill-health due to the air quality, which is often poorer than the outdoors, he says.
Assoc. Prof. Osmond says indoor pollutants can arise from new carpet, new furniture or freshly painted surfaces by releasing what are known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
“And as we come into winter, the burning of gas from heaters and stoves can create various nitrogen oxides,” he says.
For people who have open fires, they are often breathing carbon monoxide and sulphur oxides.
“So it just makes sense to head outdoors or open windows during these tighter restrictions, especially now while there is less pollution from industries and transport,” he says.
“Even if it is just by walking down the street rather than in the park, at least you are seeing some green bits of biodiversity which helps with your overall mental health and wellbeing.”
But for those who do have to remain inside, Assoc. Prof. Osmond highly recommends pot plants for their ability to filter the air.
“The combination of the plant itself and the microbes in the soil capture VOCs, such as benzene, formaldehyde and other compounds derived from paints and timber-treated products, then break it down,” he explains.
“So even on this smaller scale, on balconies, or indoor environments with pot plants around, there are multiple benefits.”
How are you staying connected to nature during the pandemic?