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  • President Obama recently articulated his point of view on climate change in a policy speech at George Washington University. For many people who work on climate change on a daily basis, including the Institute at the Golden Gate, it was a long-awaited and welcome boost. It also got us thinking about our own point of view on climate change as it relates to our core constituency of parks and other protected areas.

    According to a recent survey conducted by Yale University’s Project on Climate Change Communications, 70% of Americans believe that climate change should be a priority for Congress and the President. This represents an opening for parks in the national climate change dialogue. There is a desire for action and parks are well-positioned, trusted sources of information that can help the American public understand and feel the scope of the issue and what action is needed by our elected officials, our institutions, and each other.

    In our recent report, Climate in the Parks: Innovative Climate Change Education in Parks, we state that “The onset of climate change has become one of the greatest challenges facing parks and protected areas in the 21st century [and] embedded in this challenge there is also opportunity, as parks offer visual, historic, and tangible examples of the impacts of climate change.” The Institute’s point of view aligns with President Obama’s—that climate change is a defining issue for our time, that the science is evolving in depth, but settled in assessment, and that responding is not a political priority, it is a moral obligation.

    We also believe that parks are a vital natural and community resource in our collective national response to climate change and that President Obama should reach out to the broad parks community and engage our active participation in helping to educate all of us on the challenges and opportunities of a changing climate. We’re in this together.

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  • Park, health, and community organizations from all nine Bay Area counties—including the Institute at the Golden Gate—launched a coordinated effort called Healthy Parks, Healthy People: Bay Area in June to provide approachable, culturally relevant park programming for communities with high health needs. The programs, which involved over two dozen diverse organizations, kicked off on June 1 and will continue the first Saturday of every month.

    The programs brought over 100 people out to parks across the region, many for the first time. Families, seniors, and community groups participated in activities ranging from a stroll around the Crissy Field tidal marsh to a healthy hike in Santa Clara County to an interpretive walk at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline in the East Bay. Participating agencies had staff on hand to introduce visitors to the features of the park and talk with people about the many physical and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors.

    With mounting evidence that people of all ages are more physically active when outside and often experience lowered stress levels in that environment, parks and health care providers are working together to make it easier to spend time outdoors. Together, we are helping to create a healthier Bay Area population through the regular use and enjoyment of parks and public lands right here in our own backyards.

    This regional collaborative is part of the international Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement that takes a holistic approach to promote the health and well-being of people and the sustainability of the planet.

    To learn more about Healthy Parks, Healthy People or to join an activity near you visit hphpbayarea.org. See you in the parks!


    This article was featured in the July 2013 Park E-ventures.

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  • We’ve seen the statistics. For the first time in history, the majority of people now live in cities. What’s more, urbanization is rising rapidly, with today’s 3.5 billion city dwellers swelling to 5 billion in 2030 and 6.3 billion by 2050. Is there a role for parks in ensuring that such rapid growth is sustainable? How can parks be part of the solution to human health and wellbeing as our cities continue to grow?

    Ever since urban parks were first designed and built by pioneers such as Frederick Law Olmstead, the importance of natural spaces in cities has been recognized and supported. Parks are an affordable resource providing an abundance of mental, physical, and social health benefits while at the same time contributing directly to common goods such as air and water quality, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Today’s global Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement is an example of urban parks’ value and relevance. This movement has mobilized public lands as a free or low-cost preventive health resource, fostering programmatic partnerships with individuals, families, and community health organizations as a way to increase their relevance and build constituencies with stewardship values.

    We tend to think of the urban and the natural as opposites, but I would argue that the connections between human health, societal health, and environmental health play out robustly in all aspects of urban life (UCLA’s Jon Christensen might agree). The American Planning Association also identifies a host of ways that parks and open spaces are key to improving life in cities, including:

    • Community engagement & revitalization
    • Economic development
    • Creating safer neighborhoods
    • Green infrastructure
    • Helping children learn
    • Arts and cultural programs
    • Promoting tourism
    • Smart growth
    • Climate change management

    As urbanization continues apace, we at the Institute at the Golden Gate recognize the growing need for practical tools to help urban parks make these important contributions. Over the coming months, we’ll be sharing stories from interviews in our own backyard and beyond as we build our urban program. As with our health, food, and climate work, we will share stories from the brightest spots of innovation, bring together communities of practice around key issues, and ultimately make policy recommendations that are field-tested and stakeholder-approved.

    We welcome your feedback and engagement as we build out our connections and urban activities.

    Onward,

    Stephanie Duncan
    Program Manager

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  • Congratulations to the National Park Service for their commitment to providing healthy and sustainable food in our nation’s parks. Today senior White House officials announced that all park visitors will have healthy and nutritious food choices at 250 food and beverage operations throughout the country, reaching 23 million meals served annually. Right here in the Bay Area, Muir Woods Café has already received national recognition for serving 90% organic, healthy, sustainable, and Food Network acclaimed food for the park – stop by and have a taste!

    To read the official National Park Service Healthy Food Announcement click here.

    Healthy Parks, Healthy People!

    Melissa

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