Out lab director Dr. Marc Berman was interviewed by the University of Chicago News this week to share his opinions on how the pandemic has changed citizen’s daily life and what can we learn from it:

“COVID-19 has really clarified the crucial importance of green space in cities. During the pandemic, the outdoors has been a safer place for socially-distant activities than indoors, but many cities just don’t have enough space for people outside, and disparities exist between neighborhoods, with higher-income ones having more trees. Our research suggests that this is a big problem that transcends the current crisis, because green space positively impacts our health in all kinds of ways.”

“We’ve learned that trees, especially, have important benefits for our health: A brief walk in nature, say 50 minutes, can improve your working memory and attention capacity by about 20%. You can get those benefits at any time of the year, winter or summer, and they apply whether or not you “like” nature. We also find that those effects are even stronger for individuals who have been diagnosed with depression, and that more green space in one’s neighborhood is related to lower rates of diabetes, stroke and heart disease even when controlling for income, age and education levels.”

“Our society still tends to think of green space as an amenity, so it’s not a “front page” issue. But after we think about important topics like vaccine distribution and reopening schools safely, we should also recognize that we need outdoor spaces where people can interact safely and get the cognitive restoration they need. Finally, when it comes to planting trees or rethinking our use of public spaces, a bottom-up, rather than a top-down, approach to working with communities is best: We should share the benefits of green space, while listening to residents’ own priorities.”

Read the full article here.