The session was sponsored by the Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group of the RGS/IBG, and attracted contributions from the UK, North America and New Zealand.
The key departure point for the workshop was to explore how greenspace issues could be framed from a justice perspective. While there is a longstanding recognition of the negative impacts on health of environmental ‘bads’ such as the geographies of pollution exposure, there is a growing focus on the potential positive influence on health of environmental ‘goods’, such as access to ‘nature’/biodiversity through more equitable distribution and access to high quality urban greenspace. Nevertheless, a number of knowledge gaps remain concerning the multidimensional relationships between greenspace and health and wellbeing. Firstly, the existence of greenspace in a locality does not always equate with a health-promoting environment. For example, within an urban context, perceptions of vandalism, safety concerns and poor design may undermine the use of greenspaces. Secondly, the potential of health-promoting environments may be undermined by the distribution of environmental goods across space and variable access by socio-economic status, gender, age and cultural background. For example, more affluent neighbourhoods tend to be well served by parks, tree lined streets and access to environmental amenities (such as coastlines, riverside locations etc.). This suggests the need to consider issues of social equity and health from an environmental justice standpoint.
The contributions to the workshop were notable for the very diverse research methods used to explore health and well-being, from large longitudinal social surveys, mobile interviews, interactive computer modeling and mapping to capture young and older people’s experiences of nature and more traditional qualitative interviews. A particular theme was the variation of experiences across the lifecourse, while the design, management and governance of greenspace and nature was also widely addressed.