Not only is Durban The World’s Greenest City but it is also one of the world’s most sustainable cities.
We humans are on a constant quest to be happier, to be healthier, to live longer. Snake oil salesmen punting the next best thing are reaping the rewards. As we cover more ground about what it means to live better, we also come to discover how easily attainable it really can be. We don’t need shelves of potions and pills, we need the outdoors, sunshine, time in nature and green spaces.
A recent study conducted in the UK has released a set of guidelines for feeling better, and it advocates 2 hours a day in nature, be it sea, forest or savannah. What was consistent across all the control groups no matter age or income level, is that the benefits, both mentally and physically are evident with both healthy individuals and those with chronic illness reporting greater wellbeing and a general sense of feeling better. The results also revealed that it didn’t matter how the participants divvied up their recommended 2 hours- it could be in one large chunk or spread throughout the day; there also wasn’t a dramatic difference for those who went over the allotted 2 hours either. There are other benefits which cascade as a result from time spent outdoors- people who spend more time outdoors are more likely to engage in physical activity even if it means simply walking.
Findings like this, show us that nature is integral to our wellbeing; something we have ignored for too long but which is now slowly creeping into hallowed science and medical journals. If ‘2-hours-a-day’ is the new ‘apple-a-day’, we need to design not only our lifestyles but our cities and urban spaces to support this, which can be challenging in the concrete jungles of the modern world. In 2016, researches from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in partnership with the World Economic Forum, launched the Treepedia project with Durban ranking 6th out of the list of the top 10. By using data from Google street view, they are able to measure the volume of green space in 27 cities across the globe. Treepedia serves, not only as an index to compare cities in this way, but also to encourage relevant authorities to protect and look after their green urban spaces.
Durban is definitely leading the way in the urban green space revolution with large precincts, like the Sibaya Coastal Precinct, instating a “no-development” ethos in certain portions within its perimeters. Stretching over 1000 hectares between the Umhlanga and Umdloti estuaries, 60% or roughly 600 hectares (or basically 600 international rugby fields) of this precinct will remain undeveloped. In a bid to turn residents into conservation custodians, certain key areas of the “no-development” zone will be accessible to the public. Walkways will move through the protected Sibaya coastal forest to join the precinct to the beach via a network of elevated walkways dotted with bird hides, viewing decks and protected by precinct security.