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Eco-Therapy and Waterscapes: Coping with Climate Change


As the climate crisis continues to encroach on everyday existence, detachment from the natural world as a result of urbanisation is increasingly apparent. This holds severe implications for mental health worldwide, as eco-anxiety is occurring at alarming rates. This article analyses the importance of eco-based therapy, specifically through waterscapes, while revealing the harmful impacts of life spent separated from the environment.


Effects of Urbanisation

In a survey containing 10.000 young people across the globe (Hickman et al., 2021), 59% were extremely worried about the effects of climate change, and 84% were moderately worried. In the absence of successful climate initiatives in the coming years, these numbers are likely to rise. Increased implementation of eco-based therapies has exciting potential in both combatting psychological distress and creating healthier societal relationships with nature. Chaudhury and Banerjee (2020) explored the link between mass urbanisation and the global occurrence of mental health disorders and identified evidence exhibiting the role of decreased nature exposure in these trends.


Urbanisation following the Industrial Revolution leading to mass environmental destruction cultivated a variety of problems that continue to accelerate in severity. Perhaps one of the few positive outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic was the mass realisation that a life segregated from the natural world is accompanied by the collective endangerment of health. In recent decades, these risks have increased due to human-caused biodiversity loss. The rising incidence of large-scale diseases that affect humans is a direct outcome of habitat destruction (Chaudhury & Banerjee, 2020).


Figure 1: Urban sprawl presents a dreary example of urbanisation.

In addition to the physical dangers of climate change displayed by Covid-19, the pandemic also exacerbated the decline of psychological well-being. As the use of pharmaceutical antidepressants increases (Bragg & Atkins, 2016) eco-therapy presents treatment possibilities that tackle multiple contributors of mental distress, such as isolation from the environment. As the scale of eco-therapy increases, greater pressure will be applied on policymakers to promote opportunities for public interactions with nature. This can be executed in many ways, including the re-introduction of biodiversity in urban centres, and the advancement of volunteer-based conservation work. There is a variety of evidence stating the effectiveness of eco-therapy (Bragg & Atkins, 2016), and limitless possibilities in the redirection of urban planning to support its benefits.


Waterscapes

The multifaceted potential of eco-therapy is strengthened by its ability to succeed in countless locations. Exposure to waterscapes not only boasts therapeutic effects but also exemplifies an elemental simplicity that makes its benefits intuitive. Evidence has shown that continued proximity to waterscapes — referring to any area where water is the dominant feature — lowers the harmful effects of air pollution, extreme heat, and noise pollution (Zhang et al., 2021). Furthermore, waterscape exposure is linked with greater opportunities for both human and environmental connections.


Figure 2: An charming and sustainable urban waterscape.

As the effects of the climate crisis become more intertwined with daily life, urban planning should emphasise aquatic environments as an important component of well-being. While the healing effects of waterscapes are well documented, there is a lack of research on the role of “blue space” in urban areas and relative well-being. Finlay et al. (2015) conclude that frequent visitation to blue spaces has a profound impact on social and mental health. A key area of improvement for city policymakers is emphasising the implementation of waterscapes that are accessible to large populations, regardless of socioeconomic status.


In addition to the necessity of more blue spaces in urban landscapes for human welfare, ecosystems also benefit from the increase. Future restoration of biodiversity in city areas is entirely reliant on proactive changes in land use. In order to facilitate healthy increases in biodiversity, native species must be provided with food resources and sufficient habitat area. There are several promising strategies that promote not only biodiversity in urban locations, but also increase human interactivity (Zhang et al., 2021).


Figure 3: Children assisting in the construction of an urban pond.

An example of beneficial water use is the growing presence of sustainable urban ponds. Though their existence is often extensive in cities, they are usually man-made and geared toward water purification and flow regulation (Oertli & Parris, 2019). Therefore, the aim of most urban blue spaces has previously been to maximise a specific service — such as stormwater ponds. The primary intention of revitalised urban ponds is to promote freshwater biodiversity conservation. The coming years possess huge potential for the introduction of urban ponds to large cities. As increased biodiversity in cities takes place, individuals will have newfound access to sustainable interactions with the environment.


The success of waterscapes in urban areas is reliant on government action and therefore requires significant economic commitment. Ecosystem services refer to the principal method used by policymakers to derive value from the environment. This can include any ecological characteristic that directly or indirectly contributes to human well-being (Costanza et al., 2017). Further analysis is required to better quantify the positive societal effect of waterscapes, and the need for governmental engagement with eco-therapy. The processes of ecosystem services are increasingly important — as the world contends with globalisation, political and corporate interests put the widespread implementation of eco-therapy at risk. The mental implications of climate change continue to jeopardise public health, and international cooperation is integral.


Conclusion

The implications of the climate crisis are dishearteningly evident in every corner of the world. Urbanisation dominates human disconnection with the environment, and without a societal transition to a more intimate relationship with nature, the effects of climate change will become a grim strain on mental health. Eco-therapy is an essential route of healing that will allow not only for harmonious relationships with the land but also the sustainable development of urban centres. Urban waterscapes exemplify a hopeful future of progression, creativity, and disrupting the separation between humans and ecosystems.


Bibliographical References

Bragg, R., & Atkins, G. (2016). A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care. Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number204. Chaudhury, P., & Banerjee, D. (2020). “recovering with nature”: A review of ecotherapy and implications for the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Public Health, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2020.604440 Costanza, R., De Groot, R., Braat, L., Kubiszewski, I., Fioramonti, L., Sutton, P., Farber, S., & Grasso, M. (2017). Twenty Years of ecosystem services: How far have we come and how far do we still need to go? Ecosystem Services, 28, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.09.008 Finlay, J., Franke, T., McKay, H., & Sims-Gould, J. (2015). Therapeutic landscapes and wellbeing in later life: Impacts of blue and green spaces for older adults. Health & Place, 34, 97–106. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2015.05.001 Hickman, C., Marks, E., Pihkala, P., Clayton, S., Lewandowski, R. E., Mayall, E. E., Wray, B., Mellor, C., & Van Susteren, L. (2021). Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: A global survey. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(12). https://doi.org/10.1016/s2542-5196(21)00278-3 Oertli, B., & Parris, K. M. (2019). Review: Toward management of urban ponds for freshwater biodiversity. Ecosphere, 10(7). https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2810 Zhang, X., Zhang, Y., Zhai, J., Wu, Y., & Mao, A. (2021). Waterscapes for promoting mental health in the general population. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(22), 11792. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph182211792

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1 comentário


MD
MD
11 de dez. de 2022

Excellent article! Eco-therapy is a very interesting topic and I think we should all rediscover the beauty of nature and try to preserve it as much as possible. In a world like ours, in the midst of a climate crisis, this is essential. I recommend reading this article!

Curtir
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Martin Jeffries-Harrison

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