So I am starting my blog off with birdwatching! and never expected that. However, it fits right in with the goals of writing this blog, so here goes.
The GBBC event is done every year on this weekend and is signifiicant for “our” future, individually and collectively, if we only realize it. While birdwatching is seen as an old fogie pastime that is sneered at by the outsider as even more boring than watching grown men knock a ball around until goes in a net or in a hole with a stick.
Well the Great backyard bird count is open to anyone to participate, no matter where you are in the world and you can do it in your own backyard! The whole family and friends can join in enabling social interaction and teamwork. That’s right, you will not be watching TV and it involves going outside. The subject matter are inclined to a variety of activities more spontaneous and genuine than a soap opera. They are not limited to one point of contact so may be to your right or left, up, down near and far, walking, jumping and even flying. Counting and identifying requires brainpower skills and competition to get the heart pumping. So getting off the couch to look at birds could be the first step of many on the path to healthier lives.
Now if we make an agile leap over to Architecture, “Design for Health” is an emerging priority of the American Institute of Architects in terms of leadership by the profession (if they are listening).
“There is a rapidly growing understanding of the important role that the built environment plays on human health and wellness. This interest has been spurred, in part, by the growing concern of how to address the rising cost of healthcare, the aging baby boomer population, and climbing obesity rates. A focus on human health also addresses social equity problems that can be improved through planning and design solutions, including the creation of safe and walkable neighborhoods”.
So getting off the couch to look at birds would be the first step of many on the path to healthier lives.
Active Design Guideliines have come out of New York City, I suppose the epitome of urban living, promoting the “designers’ role in tackling one of the most urgent health crises of our day”.
Birdwatching is about being in nature and connecting with it. That is, going beyond a drive or a cycle ride, you actually are observing nature and interacting with “it”, without the separation that vehicles add. The activity may expand to talking about “habits” and “habitat” of creatures other than ourselves. This might spill over into associated trees, plants and food, but that may be overreaching right now. Reconnecting with nature is another emerging priority for urban life with the term biophilia, being the inherent bond of all humans with “it”. While it is not absolutely necessary to study nature, as in birdwatching, it is the beneficial rejuvinating effects that nature brings that the science is proclaiming. Dr. Quing Li calls shinrin yoku (forest bathing), “a recognized relaxation and/or stress management activity in Japan.” Similar attitudes are expressed in Norway.Shinrin Yoku.
Birmingham – Biophillic City
As we are now a population of majority city dwellers, connection with nature is increasingly important to a larger percentage, moreover, tendency to sedentary interior work situations emphasizes this need. So we now bound over to my birthplace of Birmingham, UK, one of an international group of cities incorporating nature into planning as Biophilic cities, where natural assets are included in assessments of city planning and as a larger scale instance, the river enclosed beneath the foot of the current city center developments is to be opened up into a more natural state. Smaller instances are just as relevant and may be more achievable in the short term. Referring to the AIA statement above, the built environment’s important role it plays on human health is more once again about solving problems created by it.
The presence of nature in cities is of paramount importance when it is generally stated by planners that cities are going to become more dense. The variety and number of birds within them are indicators of the bigger picture that reflects city health. Efforts to revisit urban spaces throughout cities to bring in nature and not to disinfect, will be part of changes to our expectations for our urban environment. The need should influence how we, arrange public space, reconsider the dominance of vehicles and understand the relationship of our health with our environment