How do we increase access to quality green spaces and healthier lifestyles for everyone? Obesity is one high risk-factor in serious complications from Covid 19 and will have increased the pandemic death rate, but there is also an underlying problem with health outcomes being worse for some people because of lifestyle. During the national lockdowns, the nation was shamefully divided into those with access to exercise in gardens, parks and countryside and those with nowhere green to go, a divide that has grown for decades.
That some people have easy access to green spaces for purposeful activities and regular exercise and others do not contributes to serious health inequalities. Wealthy, suburban communities with green space have better opportunities for exercising in parks, nature reserves or national parks. Poorer urban communities with multiple deprivations correlate with poor access to green space and poorer health.
Purposeful activity and regular physical exercise must be a greater part of our lifestyles if we are to address long term health concerns. Outdoor activities, such as walking, running, wild swimming, cycling, gardening, fishing and nature watching have to be a part of more lives. England has a vibrant voluntary conservation and countryside access sector and local authorities and agencies play a role. But their historic emphasis has been rural and distant from the lives of many people.
There are two linked problems. Firstly, the bulk of green spaces and activities to promote them are remote, rural or in suburban areas. Secondly, the resources available to green charities, local authorities and national agencies has been in decline as the pandemic has hit incomes and Exchequer spending has focused on other priorities.
How do we fund a green renewal in cities, towns and countryside and how do we make this truly a venture for all?