By Jonathan Law, Translation assisted by Qian Li.
I would self-describe myself as a ‘non-traditional environmentalist’, previously exploring both concrete and green jungles.
Although always a nature lover since young, I my initial professional pathway was headed in the direction of Biomedical and Physiological research. It was only after a study trip to Shanghai that I fully appreciated and understood the value of natural environments, experiencing firsthand the extreme pressure of urban living in one of the world’s largest mega cities.
Throughout Shanghai there were several man-made lake parks that were absolutely packed to the brim every hour of the day and night, as my local friend framed it, it is this “Green Impact” that city dwellers hold on to and cherish so dearly.
After I was selected to participate in a sustainability leadership program, I pursued a Master’s degree in Environment, focussing on the link between physical and mental health and exposure to nature and wildlife. Throughout my studies I volunteered on a range of research projects that covered public health, urban planning and ecology. This was not only out of passion but also to help build up experience, skills and networks.
After some brief stints as a consultant and researcher, I now find myself placed in the Yarra Riverkeeper Association and Our Future Cities, contributing to both natural resource management and urban sustainability solutions. Although life is getting busier and COVID-19 has made it difficult, I am still a keen dancer and dance teacher in my spare time. When I was studying at University, I also used performances and videos to promote social causes and sustainable fashion wear, most notably for MetersBonwe.
I find myself advocating for the value of green space in fostering healthy lifestyle, with a personal highlight being able to exploring the benefits of one of the world’s most famous urban renewal projects, the청계천 (Cheonggye Cheon Stream) in Seoul, Korea. Even within the same geographic regions in the city, it has been well documented that the incidents of mental and physical morbidities such as self-harm and heart disease rates are much higher in those who do not regularly access green space. I had read the literature studies on Chicago and Barcelona, however speaking to local friends and residents about how going to the 청계천 directly correlates to their level of happiness and sense of self was truly moving.
我发现自己倡导着绿色空间在培养健康生活方式中的价值，而（我的个人经历的）其中一个亮点便是能够探寻世界上最知名的城市改造项目之一：位于韩国首尔的（清溪川）（改造项目）。即使在城市中的同一个地理区域，也有充分记录表明，不经常来到绿地的人，其自残以及心脏病等身心疾病的发病率较其他人群更高。我也阅读了关于芝加哥和巴塞罗那的文献研究，然而和当地朋友以及居民谈论 和他们的幸福感以及自我认识, 非常鼓舞人心。
Especially in the face of COVID-19 restrictions, green space is vital in helping facilitate not only exercise but recreation, socialisation as well as a sense of place and belonging. In our hyper-connected lifestyles, a rising trend especially amongst younger people is the short escape to blue and green urban pockets within cities.
These places are great to take it all in, self-reflect, meditate, talk to your higher power, perhaps even see wildlife if you are lucky.
Within Melbourne there are three distinct places that come to mind as small sanctuaries of retreat;
Firstly, St.Kilda Beach at night, taking in the fresh ocean breeze, spotting the occasional penguin and spotting shooting stars inspires hope and motivation for the future.
Secondly, is the very end of Docklands boat pier next to the community hub library, it is this hybrid stimulation of tranquillity where the bay meets the Yarra River, but also the bustle of the city inspires a sense of calm and relaxation.
Thirdly is the Royal Botanical Gardens, sometimes I feel we are too caught up with the beauty of ourselves, our friends or the celebrities that we admire, that we forget that nature is beautiful too.
As both government and environment groups work towards greening our cities through the creation of urban forests, the traditional concept of man and nature as separate is challenged. Cities can and should be a haven for both people and wildlife to thrive.
I think we need to connect more with nature; walk along the Yarra, admire the birds, smell the flowers, appreciate what is around you and give a boost to your physical and mental health.
(Photos courtesy of JL and Metersbowne)