Sun | Jul 12, 2020

Jonelle Llewellyn | Post COVID-19: Ja can benefit from a national green-space programme

Published:Thursday | June 25, 2020 | 12:17 AM
Emancipation Park, a green space in the heart of the city.
Emancipation Park, a green space in the heart of the city.

Noting trends on the international scene, it is now accepted that there will be a prompt societal shift post COVID-19 as governments and their people adopt new ways of life. From increased use of the digital market to extreme measures of limiting social interaction, a nation’s people may indirectly allow for an undesired, anti-social phenomenon.

When borders reopen and the workforce resumes their daily commute to and from work, there may need to be a push to resolve current observed pain points within our nation’s framework. That ‘push’ can be the emergence of functional green spaces islandwide.

Discourse on social media continues to highlight the class divide. With crises such as high urban structures with limited square footage and poor ventilation, to tightened curfew measures, this makes living situations almost unbearable in our most vulnerable communities. Persons will argue that the emergence of rooftop gatherings is a form of mocking our leaders and security forces. It can also be reasoned that our citizens seek to escape from the dreadful situations of crammed, heat-filled rooms with more persons being forced to stay indoors.

WHERE GREEN SPACES FIT

In the event that compulsory lockdown or self-isolation is to prolong, or re-emerge, a designated area to ‘reset’ will be desirable. Green spaces, or parks, are known to be the central axis of human relations. If acted on in the near future, the current challenges faced by confinement can be temporarily addressed, once monitored. Persons will be able to benefit from a monitored relief period while still adhering to social-distance practices. Long term, much more can be reaped, as green spaces can now be a permanent solution to fill the gross lack of consideration for societal needs – not only that of vulnerable communities, but also the absence of play areas for children and youth; spaces to improve health and wellness, among serving other beneficiaries.

Green spaces also provide a safe environment to work on or erase the psychosocial trauma associated with isolation, unwelcomed living situations which fosters abuse, challenging circumstances to balance working from home, taking care of a child(ren), all while being deeply engrossed in the fear that the media oftentimes put out.

MAKING GREEN SPACES HAPPEN

Let us visit the case study of how Christchurch, New Zealand, rebuilt its city after the 2011 earthquake. It was a public, participatory approach, but lead by an established single-purpose organisation. The division was tasked with developing the city’s first urban blueprint plan which took 106,000 ideas from across the community with a 100-day deadline.

Using this time wisely, dialogue can commence on what parts of every city, among rural areas for consideration, can be leveraged for the creation of appropriate green spaces, with little to no disruption of the current environment.

Depending on the scope, commencing the planning now means that the persons can not only participate, but anticipate on exiting isolation. It would be in the nation’s best interest to mobilise the resources and support from both government and private sector to make this an actuality that isn’t to be delayed much longer. Social enterprise not-for-profit agencies are also in a good place to obtain funding for the support of such projects, as the aim is to enhance the lives of many. Other civil-society groups are not be left out. Extensive collaboration is needed to make such a project meaningful and worthwhile.

Jonelle Llewellyn is a research associate, Violence Prevention Alliance.