A useful video on riots

As the video says, riots are a predictable sociological phenomenon. We know the conditions that almost always create riots, and we have for a long time. Riots are not “strategy”, and they are also not inevitable. They’re the result of policy and actions by humans, and that means that the conditions that create most of them can be avoided, primarily by improving people’s control over their own lives, improving their economic conditions, and by just governance. The problem, as always, is that those changes would mean less obscene wealth and power for the people who benefit from the current system.


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

 

And Lo, I beheld a mighty hunter…

Now that Scotland has entered phase 1 of its re-opening, Tegan and I ventured out into the Glaswegian Wilds to meet up with comrades, not seen since before The Great Isolation. At the Grove of Kelvin did we meet, and sup among the daisy-strewn grass, on blankets spaced just over two meters apart. The pigeons cooed, the crows cawed, and I’m fairly certain I heard a raven or two croak.

On our return journey, we spotted a thrilling – yet terrifying – sight! A vicious feliform predator was prowling the wasteland outside his lair, accompanied by the poor souls who shared his home, left alive in exchange for their servitude.

 

The image shows Banjo the kitten being held up by one of his humans. He's 8 weeks old, with fluffy white fur, and curious blue eyes. The human's shirt has horizontal black and white stripes. There are stone buildings in the background, with mulched yards in front, hemmed in by iron fencing.

Like many of his kind, Banjo has trained his simian servants to raise him up, that he might survey the land. Scholars are uncertain whether they achieve this through learned body language, or some more sinister, psychic communication

The image shows Banjo standing on the mulch of his yard, kept inside by chicken wire that has been added to the iron fencing. He's a small, white cat with fluffy fur and blue eyes. His tail is sticking straight up and out behind him, swishing a little as he stares intently at the tip of a black umbrella, moving up the other side of the chicken wire. The picture also shows brown leather shoes on the pavement outside the yard (mine), and the sandaled feet of another person within the yard, behind the cat.

On the ground once more, Banjo comes to the border of his domain, intent on an inspection of the tip of my umbrella. Fearful of his ire, I allowed him to examine it at his leisure.

The image shows Banjo standing on the mulch of his yard, kept inside by chicken wire that has been added to the iron fencing. He's a small, white cat with fluffy fur and blue eyes. His tail is sticking straight up and out behind him, swishing a little as he stares intently at the tip of a black umbrella, moving up the other side of the chicken wire. His paws are up on the chicken wire as he tries to bat at the umbrella. The picture also shows brown leather shoes (mine), and one red sandal and blue skirt with white polka dots (Tegan's) on the pavement outside the yard

The mighty hunter pounced! His paws, both velvety-soft and frighteningly armed both hurtled toward the umbrella as it moved up the chicken wire. Truly, I survived only because of the merciful presence of that sturdy fence!

The image shows Banjo standing on the mulch of his yard, kept inside by chicken wire that has been added to the iron fencing. He's a small, white cat with fluffy fur and blue eyes. His tail is sticking straight up and out behind him, swishing a little as he stares intently at the tip of a black umbrella, moving up the other side of the chicken wire. His paws are up on the chicken wire as he tries to bat at the umbrella. The picture also shows brown leather shoes (mine), and one red sandal and blue skirt with white polka dots (Tegan's) on the pavement outside the yard

As the umbrella continued up the fence, unaffected by his first pounce, his piercing blue eyes followed it, waiting for the next opportunity to strike.

The image shows Banjo standing on the mulch of his yard, kept inside by chicken wire that has been added to the iron fencing. He's a small, white cat with fluffy fur and blue eyes. His tail is sticking straight up and out behind him, swishing a little as he stares intently at the tip of a black umbrella, moving up the other side of the chicken wire. His paws are up on the chicken wire as he tries to bat at the umbrella. The picture also shows brown leather shoes (mine), and one red sandal and blue skirt with white polka dots (Tegan's) on the pavement outside the yard

Foolishly, I shifted, and drew the gaze of the beast. he thought about eating my legs, but decided, instead, to continue patrolling his territory. I am certain that, had the poor souls sheltering in his lair not brought him offerings of food, I would not have survived to tell this tale.

After he tired of investigating my umbrella, he returned to practicing his hunting skills, the better to consume some future prey less fortunate than us. If you listen carefully, you can hear the terrified Glaswegians telling us of the tribulations of attempting to sleep with so mighty a predator moving about after the sun sets. They were using the bright pink thing in an attempt to tire him out, in a vague hope that he would sleep through the night, and allow them to do the same.

All in all, it was a lovely day, with lovely people, and it was nice to meet Banjo, and the folks who kindly gave me permission to share my encounter with you all.


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

Guest post: Activism, ability, fear, and guilt

By Grace Taverna
If you can, please donate to Charleston Shield or to one of the bail funds working to help the folks on the ground

I’m genuinely worried about the reality of the second Covid wave being ushered forth by current events. I fully support the protests (obviously). Our country is a racist disgrace and always has been, and fascist police and right wing neo-nazi’s are taking full advantage to turn demonstrations violent and harm the exact communities that are speaking up against the brutality under the guise of being them.

Pigs have always used the same tactics of subterfuge in crowds to turn just demonstrations into violent riots but there is now an aspect of biological warfare that has never overlapped before with times of great civil disobedience. I do not put it beneath them to intentionally expose and infect the people they arrest as simply we are not real people to them.

It also changes the parameters for “able bodied enough to take action” especially as police and those of ulterior motives turn these demonstrations increasingly violent. People who might have turned out to support the demonstrations but can’t in these circumstances.

Covid aside, if you get harmed protest or no protest you’re already spinning the wheel of our bastardized medical system. Now our odds are even worse. It was always the most oppressed peoples who have been susceptible to Covid, as a direct result of institutionalized racism and poverty, look at the death statistics, we know the deaths from Covid and the long term impacts of it target mainly POC and those in poor areas. Look at my home in Chelsea, in a state [Massachusetts] that is still under even some precautions but is the poster child for high infection rates. These are the exact people who are impacted most by the sick farce that is our possession of civil rights. Everyone’s being faced with an impossible choice to fight for something that should be the world’s most obvious answer (for dummies that is: prejudice = BAD).

At the same time, there is a mentality of “Covid might as well kill me because eventually the police are going to.” Or “I’m going to have to take my chances getting sick because the state’s forcing me back to work, so it’s not like I’m going to be given the option to keep myself healthy anyway.” The sick reality is that these thoughts are both 100% correct. The country at the macro and the state at the micro DON’T care, they couldn’t give the foggiest fuck about keeping us safe and healthy. They want us back on the capitalism production mill pronto. We know this. For many the risk is really just “I’d rather die/become ill fighting for my rights then dying for their profit.” There’s a lot of argument back and forth, but in reality, it’s never a *good* time for a civil rights movement, civil rights movements aren’t a good time. They are not fun, they are a necessity. No one *wants* to have to fight to be allowed to exist, no one *wants* it to be needed, no one *wants* the reality of the genocidal infrastructure this country is built on. (With the obvious exception of our supremacist wealthy ruling class)

When this was just a global pandemic (Fuck the absurdity of that statement), I know I didn’t feel like I was doing enough. Now we’re past the dawn and in the day of the next needed wave of what has always been the continued fight for civil liberties. It hasn’t restarted, it never ended. Not for Natives, POC, the Queer, Women, the Poor with even interlocking layered internalized oppression between oppressed groups. The racist queer people, homophobic POCs, every shade of otherized white persons and our inherent privilege, TERFs, all trying to pull themselves one rung higher on the system’s ladder as to not find themselves on the bottom at one point or another deluding themselves into thinking the fight ever ended because they were no longer last place. All while bargaining for temporary perceived social clout of “wokeness” as an introspective social currency to designate themselves as fundamentally good. With or without putting in the prerequisite man hours. While conversely there is a guilt into action of oppressed persons who feel like they haven’t done enough or been pure enough of constitution and thought. No one has to fight for their rights to be deserving of them, but someone has to fight or no one will have them.

We never stood a chance. Embedded in all this media of protests and Covid the stripping away of health care hasn’t even slowed. It’s become more vocal about keeping anyone who isn’t WWM (white wealthy and male) at risk and away from what resources we do have. For that even we’re lucky to live in MA where we at least have some chance at receiving testing/aid. Ironically medical workers themselves fall overwhelmingly and overlapping into these oppressed groups. The slow down of cases we have experienced was inherently positive. Any progress is progress in the face of a health pandemic in the exact same way that any progress is not enough progress in the face of the pandemic of systemic oppression. Our gains in Covid are not even a hair closer to making it safe to reopen or rid ourselves of it, and we’re being forced by stages back to “normalcy” anyway, for the sake of making money. Simultaneously in other states victims of police violence are poised to take the spots for hospital care, not that I’m optimistic they’ll receive it, that we can’t even confidently say are needed. I think about that every time I see someone tear gassed getting doused with milk or the welts and bruises on those hit with rubber bullets and gas canisters in the circulating footage.

Am I healthy enough to contribute? To protest? Is my contribution going to be meaningful and necessary? Am I myself an at risk person, even if I’ve avoided it to this point? Am I actually a vector and going to endanger the people I want to assist? Will I get hurt? Will the hurt I get make a difference or will it just further put me at risk? Am I so privileged that I can turn a blind eye? Am I so disenfranchised that a knock down of injury or illness will end what I’ve struggled for? Can my lungs hold up to Covid? Can my lungs hold up to tear gas? To what degree is this my fight, and am I undeserving for questioning it? Where in the complex web of privilege and disadvantage do I actually sit? Is there any way to know for sure?

In 25 years will I feel sick with myself because I wasted the isolation, that I’m uncharacteristically lucky enough to have, dealing with my own feelings of depression, sorrow and loneliness, instead of taking advantage of time not otherwise afforded to my class? Will I feel that the very short time I spent making PPE will have been enough of a contribution to warrant self merit?

In 25 years will I hate myself for not going out and demonstrating, because I’m afraid of getting sick or because I lightly sprained my ankle in a pleasure activity meant to distract myself from said isolation? Or will I just remember fondly learning a skill that I’ve wanted since youth but never had the time or athleticism to attempt until now? Was being able to finally distract myself for a few hours for the first time in days worth impeding my ability to contribute when it mattered?

Should I just keep to myself and attempt to eek out serotonin and joy for my tired body and hurt brain, and continue to take this time for self recovery?

At what point do my privileges make self care selfishness? Or will the state of my mind never allow me to see a difference? At what point is the push to self sacrifice self harm? What is the self in the face of the whole?

What will I continue to think and believe in the face of ever changing events, science, structures and philosophy? Am I a nihilist or an optimist? Did I ever have hope or belief in people or was I just able to forget about it for a short while?

What is my depression and life experiences – both good and bad – in the face of the larger universal battle for balance?


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

Tips for protesters/activists. Copy and share without attribution

For folks who are new to social justice actions:

1. Water makes pepper spray worse. Use milk or liquid antacid and water. Don’t wear contacts.

2. If you get tear gassed, when you get home, put the contaminated clothes in a plastic bag for later decontamination and shower with cold water to avoid opening your pores.

3. Come with friends and don’t get separated.

Avoid leaving the crowd and watch out for police snatch squads.

4. Beware undercovers, but beware snitch jacketing and collaborator ‘peace police’ even more.

5. The far right is very good at combing through pictures and doxxing people. Mask up.

6. Write any necessary phone numbers you may need directly on your skin in sharpie.

7. Have an offsite plan for emergencies if you have not been heard from by X time coordinated with someone offsite.

8. Make sure all mobile devices are charged!!

9. If you plan on going to jail, plan it: bail, lawyer, time off from work, witnesses i.e.: a cadre. Don’t just go to jail without training.

10. Beware folks inciting violence. Most of them are police feds. Watch out for hook ups for the same reason. Get to know the crowd. They will set you up.

***Please don’t share this status. Copy paste it without attribution. ***

Scientists team up with Kalaallit Inuit hunters to record foraging narwhals

A team of researchers, including some Inuit hunters, have published an array of new underwater recordings from the Arctic Ocean, off the coast of Greenland. Their work includes analysis of sounds made by a nearby melting glacier, various human sources, and most notably an array of sounds from narwhals. The narwhal recordings were possible because of the Inuit team members, who were able to get far closer to the narwhals than is generally possible.

The recordings include a series of squeaks, clicks, and whines described in greater detail (along with frequencies) in the JGR Oceans articleOne of the findings that most interested the scientists was that apparently the narwhals forage for food far closer to the glacier than had been previously thought, despite the high noise levels coming from the melting and falling ice.

Surprisingly, the researchers found narwhals come roughly within 1 kilometer (half a mile) of a glacier calving front, despite the fact that these areas are some of the noisiest places in the ocean and calving icebergs can be dangerous.

“There is so much cracking due to ice fracturing and bubbles melting out… it’s like a fizzy drink underwater,” Podolskiy said. “It seems we are dealing with animals living in one of the most noisy environments without having much trouble with that.”

For all it can seem like we know a huge amount about our own planet and the various other species with whom we share it, there’s a lot that we have yet to learn, simply because actually getting information is extremely difficult. This is particularly true for ocean life. The oceans are huge, tend to have low visibility, and a variety of extreme conditions that present a variety of technical challenges to data collection. The Arctic Ocean is particularly difficult to navigate because of the ice. Unsurprisingly, the best people for the job are usually those who’ve been living in and around the environments in question for centuries, and know the challenges and the changes to look out for.

As the climate warms, a lot of things are changing around the world, and we will have a better idea what changes are happening where, and how fast, if we know more about how things are now. That’s going to be important in the Arctic not just because of the rapid warming that’s happening there, but because certain gluttonous ghouls are salivating over the notion of turning the Arctic Ocean into an oil field the way they’ve done in the Caribbean.

Image shows a narwhal swimming against a blue background, its skin dappled by the shafts of sunlight coming down from the surface. It's a long-bodied whale, with a blunt snout, pectoral fins near the head, a bit of a belly, and a tapered tale ending in flukes. The overall color is mottled gray and black, and there's a long tusk protruding through its upper lip, just above the mouth. The tusk is maybe 1/4 to 1/3 the length of the whale itself.

Causing a commotion

The threat of increased industrial and military activity in the Arctic is particularly worrisome for creatures like cetaceans, whose reliance on sound for communication and navigation makes them particularly vulnerable to the noise caused by underwater machinery and explosions. While there are numerous reasons to oppose industrial activity in the Arctic Ocean, it seems unlikely that we’ll be able to prevent it from becoming noisier in those water, and I find it somewhat encouraging that that may pose less of a problem for narwhals than had been initially feared.

You can read the full article in the Journal of Geophysical Research, where they go into detail about the various noises recorded, the likely purposes of the noises, and how they went about their work.


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

A video on George Floyd

I don’t have a lot to say about this. I can’t bring myself to watch the video, and the odds are good that I won’t, unless by doing so I can do some good in some way. From what I’ve read, I don’t see any justification for why the officers involved haven’t already been charged with murder.

Beau of the Fifth Column has done some useful commentary on police and police violence in the past, and I think his take on this murder is worth considering.

 

When delusion meets reality: Taking the mantle of Sisyphus to avoid the road of Mad Max

For the last couple decades, the United States of America has been on a collision course with reality, and I think everyone has felt it. To the political right wing of the country, that feeling has manifested as episodic concern over debt (when talk turns to spending for the common good), fear of a decline in American global “leadership”, and some vague notion of lost glory and moral decay. Toward the left, it has been more about environmental collapse and war, and increasingly, about a detachment from scientific understanding of reality, as scientists have increasingly coalesced around a concern over climate change. The scientific divide has not been a clear left/right issue, with things like anti-vaccine sentiments being present on both “sides”, and a deep suspicion of genetic modification technology, and the pharmaceutical industry on the left being driven by a reasonable (in my opinion) suspicion of the massive corporations that have dominated both of those fields of late.

But regardless, there has been a general consensus that things cannot continue as they are.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the stakes have been raised, and I’ve been watching the response to this plague in news, government, and online discourse, take some deeply bizarre turns. It has been mentioned, from time to time, that we seem to be living in some strange side-universe of whatever human timeline actually continues on into the deep future. This is that weird timeline that only shows up in a comic book in some alternate reality, where Donald Trump actually won an election, and major political parties in the US responded to a global pandemic by insisting that it wasn’t happening, and that the death counts were all made up. I think much of that feeling of unreality comes from the the slow realization that a lot of what we were taught about the United States and its role in the world was never true. Whatever the reason, this is where we are.

As of writing, just under 100,000 people have been killed in the United States by this virus, and we still have people saying that a lockdown and social distancing are more damaging to society.

I’ve heard some people say that the entire pandemic is somehow part of a global left-wing conspiracy, and any evidence to the contrary is faked in some way, or caused by the lockdown itself. Obviously I don’t agree.

This is a preview of a piece for my $10/month patrons. If you’d like to read the full article, you can sign up to help support my work over at Patreon.com/Oceanoxia

The manifestations and results of American “leadership”

I’m working on patron rewards today, but here’s a bit of discussion on what’s been going on in Venezuela:

I’ll write more on this as time goes by, but as is said in this conversation, the US has a long, bloody history of interfering in other countries. Despite the rhetoric often used, that interference is not based on whether or not the leaders of those countries are democratically elected, whether they’re corrupt, or whether they’re good or bad to their people. It is always based on what those in the US government think will benefit corporate profits, and what will interfere with any efforts at creating successful socialist countries.

One of the points made here that I think is worth noting is that about the treatment of heavily armed/militarized countries, and those that focus on other things like social progress first. Those countries that tend to retain their autonomy and resist US coup or invasion efforts are the ones that build up their capacity for violence. People talk about preventing Iran or North Korea from getting nuclear weapons, but the reality is that it only takes a glance at history to realize that as soon as they start to disarm, they will be seen as weak targets by the US military-industrial complex, and a source of profit for blood.

If the US wanted to play a role in increasing peace, and encouraging other countries to treat their people well, then we would be backing regimes like the Morales regime in Bolivia, or the da Silva regime in Brazil, not the brutal thugs who ousted or imprisoned them. We would have supported Gaddafi in Libya for getting rid of his weapons of mass destruction, the way we currently support the brutal Saudi regime, rather than working to oust him. This has nothing to do with whether the leaders were “good people” – Gaddafi, at least by the end of his life, clearly was not. But since the United States, as a country, regularly supports, aids, and enables vicious rulers and militaries all over the world, it’s worth noting who gets that support, and who that support is used against.

The lesson the US seems to be trying to teach the world is that seeking peace, and trying to look after your people rather than build up your security and military, is seen as a threat to the American empire, and will result in a never-ending onslaught of coups, assassinations, sanctions, and invasions.


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!

Climate change, mental health and green spaces

I periodically talk about “building a better world”, and I wanted to go into what I mean by that, just a bit. It’s a hard concept to define, because the world is such a complex place, and ideally a person’s understanding of how it works should always be changing as they take in new information. In any given piece of writing, I’m aiming at the best world I can think of, based on my current level of understanding.

This image is a piece of concept art, showing a

“Green City”, by Nick Pederson

I’m aiming for “utopia” not because I think a perfect world is possible – I think the very concept is more or less meaningless – but because I think that as a species we’re capable of learning, and improving things over time, and we should always be working in that direction. In most situations, most people seem to agree. We develop more efficient and effective technology, better medicines, new ways to treat mental health, new ways to communicate, and so on. We take what we have, and what we know about the present and the past, and use it to try to build something better for the future, in one way or another.

When it comes to how society is ordered, there seems to be a persistent resistance to change, not just by those who benefit the most from the status quo, but also by everyday folks, who seem to believe that the current system, whatever it happens to be, is the best we’re likely to get. When things are bad enough, either for the population on average, or for particular groups, we see people pushing for change, either to “go back” to some version of the past they think was better, or to “go forward” to something better than past or present.

Some of the resistance to change is simply the size of the stakes. Tinkering with a piece of equipment, or the practices of one organization is pretty small, and if it fails, there’s a limit to how much harm it can do. At the societal level, there is at least the hypothetical potential for real catastrophe, and so changes driven by popular demand often won’t happen until it seems like catastrophe is going to happen without change. In addition, however, I think one part of the problem when it comes to working toward societal improvement is with scope of imagination. It’s easy to look at a particular tool, machine, or technique, and spot ways in which it might be better. It’s hard to to see ways in which the overall form and function of our entire society could be better, and it’s easy to look around and see ways in which it could be worse.

So while part of what I want to do is to process news and science, and help shine a spotlight on some of the things I think need more attention; another part is trying to take what is, and use it to imagine what could be. Some of that gets channeled into science fiction writing, and some of it I do on this blog by working through the kinds of effects one change or another could have, what role they could play in the massive effort of reshaping how our society operates on both a local and a global scale.

In my recent post about research into the potential of urban gardening for food production, I touched briefly on the secondary positive effects of increasing the amount of “green” space in cities. I’d like to go into that a little bit more, because I think that there are a number of ways in which the world would be improved by increasing the the amount of plant life we cultivate in engineered environments like cities, and by viewing cities as part of the ecosystems that surround them, rather than as somehow separate from them.

The image shows the  Promenade Plantée, an park built on an abandoned viaduct. The stricture resembles an elevated train track, made of brick arches, with shop fronts in the space under the arches. The top of the viaduct has grasses, shrubs, and benches, with trees on either side of it, and the buildings of Paris in the background

Promenade Plantée, Paris

Psychological responses to climate change, and to other aspect of environmental problems and the way our society operates as a whole have long been an obstacle to change. As it stands, a lot of people feel drained by work, and generally gloomy about both the state of the world, and their ability to do anything about it. I believe that moving towards a democratic socialist economic model, where people have more ownership of their work, and more say in how their businesses and countries are run, would go a long way to improving mental health across society. That said, even if we make such a change far more rapidly than I think is possible, the massive changes to our climate, and the changes that will follow as a consequence of that, are going to mess with people’s heads.

The concept of eco-anxiety has been discussed quite a bit in recent years, both among those of us who spend a large portion of our time on the subject of climate change, and among younger people who are growing up with an awareness of climate change as a looming disaster that they’re largely powerless to stop.

Coping with the changes that we can no longer avoid is going to be rough, and there is merit in taking action not just to address the material equations of food, water, energy, and medicine, but also the mental health of the population. The goal is not just to survive, but to build a world in which, as much as possible, everyone can thrive. I will not be satisfied with stopping the process of making the world worse, I want it to be better.

With that in mind, I want to take another look at the concept of urban gardening, not just for the fraction of a city’s food it could provide, but also for the other benefits.

First, briefly, is the issue of air pollution. It’s a major problem in cities around the world, it causes a dizzying array of mental and physical health problems, and it is more dangerous in higher temperatures. Add in global warming, and I think the problem is clear.

Plant life can reduce the harmful effects of air pollution. The degree of effect can be unclear, and depending on species and conditions, there may not always be a clear physical health benefit from adding plant life to cities, as things like pollen can have their own negative effects on lung health. While I think increasing urban plant life would be a good thing for air pollution overall, it’s important to pay attention to potential downsides, and plan for them. Never make the mistake of thinking any changes we make will – or can be – entirely perfect.

Beyond that, however, there’s a fair amount of work that has been done in the last few years showing that time spent in and around growing plants can decrease stress and increase happiness.

Analyzing data that followed people over a five year period, the research has found that moving to a greener area not only improves people’s mental health, but that the effect continues long after they have moved.

The findings add to evidence that suggests increasing green spaces in cities — such as parks and gardens — could deliver substantial benefits to public health.

The research is one of the first studies to consider the effects of green space over time and has used data from the British Household Panel Survey, a repository of information gathered from questionnaires filled in by households across Great Britain.

On gardening:

Through a series of questionnaires, [this study]found that the gardeners had significantly higher levels of body appreciation, significantly higher levels of body pride, and significantly higher levels of appreciation for their body’s functionality, compared to a group of 81 non-gardeners, recruited from the same area of London.

The study also discovered that the longer period of time the participants spent gardening, the larger the improvement in positive body image when they left their allotment.

Previous research has shown that gardening is associated with improved psychological wellbeing and physical health. This new study adds to previous work by Professor Swami demonstrating that exposure to natural environments helps to promote positive body image.

On gardens in hospitals:

Adding greenery in the form of a garden to the often sterile, cold environment of hospitals and other healthcare facilities can reduce stress in patients, visitors and staff and even lessen a patient’s pain in some instances, says a Texas A&M University authority on health care design.

On access to public parks:

According to the study, published in International Journal of Environmental Health Research, urban parks have been recognized as key neighborhood places that provide residents with opportunities to experience nature and engage in various activities. Through contact with the natural environment and engagement in health-promoting and/or social and recreational activities in parks, users experience physical and mental health benefits such as stress reduction and recovery from mental fatigue.

Principle investigator Hon K. Yuen, Ph.D., OTR/L, professor in the UAB Department of Occupational Therapy, said the original intent of the project was to validate previous research findings on the impact of park visit on emotional well-being, and evaluate the contribution of choosing to participate in physical activity in the park in relation to emotional well-being after the park visit.

“Overall, we found park visitors reported an improvement in emotional well-being after the park visit,” said Yuen. “However, we did not find levels of physical activity are related to improved emotional well-being. Instead, we found time spent in the park is related to improved emotional well-being.”

More than that, the nature of the green space matters too. Any is better than none, but having something approaching wilderness seems to make a real difference as well:

A new study led by the University of Washington has found that not all forms of nature are created equal when considering benefits to people’s well-being. Experiencing wildness, specifically, is particularly important for physical and mental health, according to the study published Jan. 29 in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Cities.

Past research has found health and wellness benefits of nature for humans, but this is the first study to show that wildness in urban areas is profoundly important for human well-being.

“It was clear from our results that different kinds of nature can have different effects on people,” said lead author Elizabeth Lev, a graduate student in the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. “The wilder areas in an urban park seem to be affording more benefits to people — and their most meaningful interactions depended on those relatively wild features.”

We are an increasingly urban species, and as we continue into the 21st century, we are already facing the need to redesign most aspects of our infrastructure to account for climate change (and recently for infectious disease). Many cities are already working in green spaces where they can, and this is a good thing. Increasing that trend, treating plant life as a valuable resource to be maintained and cultivated for the population, and making it possible for people to be involved in gardening themselves would all go some way toward improving life for most of humanity.

The image shows a narrow strip of grassland between a road and a parking lot, with a diverse array of plants, most flowering. The overall effect is that of a natural grassland or prairie in full bloom, with a road, and then some trees on the right, and an apartment complex and parking area on the left. The plants are a mix of different greens, some brown, and maroon, blue, pink, yellow, and white flowers  of all different shapes and sizes.

Tokyo road reserve


Unfortunately, life costs money, and my income from this blog has yet to meet minimum wage for the time I put into it. If you can afford to, please consider pledging a couple dollars per month or so through my Patreon. This will help me continue creating and improving this blog by keeping a roof over my head, and food in my carnivorous pets so they don’t eat me. Crowdfunding requires a crowd, so if you can pitch in a little, it would help a great deal!