In this video from Earth Island Institute's New Leaders Initiative, meet Misra Walker, an 18-year-old who lives in a section of the South Bronx in New York City called Hunts Point. Misra explains some of the conditions her community lives with because of significant industrial activity in the area. She tells how she, along with her teen advocacy group, A.C.T.I.O.N., worked to convince the Manhattan Transit Authority (MTA) to run a seasonal bus shuttle to one of the few green spaces in the community, a riverside park that was unsafe to access by other means.
The Hunts Point section of New York City’s South Bronx has a unique cultural and social identity. It has the highest concentration of Hispanics in all of New York City, and more than half of the population live below the poverty line. Yet it shares something in common with lots of other urban communities: it has very little green space. Green space is defined as open and undeveloped land that supports natural vegetation. Depending on its location, green space may contain grassy fields, woodlands, or aquatic habitats such as streams, swamps, ponds, or lakes. Playgrounds and picnic areas can be easily integrated within these natural settings, making them suitable destinations not only for wildlife but for people as well.
While it is exceedingly difficult to prove that a direct link exists between green spaces and improved public health, a number of formal health studies and plenty of anecdotal evidence suggest that people who have access to green spaces in their communities feel mentally and physically healthier. Spending time in green spaces offers people relief from the stresses and strains of everyday living. In children and teens with attention and behavioral disorders, evidence suggests that engaging with nature can improve these conditions. When green spaces are attractive and accessible, people are more likely to engage in physical activity. This generates some obvious but important health benefits, including improved fitness, weight control, and diabetes management.
Today, more people than ever live in places with fewer green spaces. This is especially true for low-income populations, who tend to inhabit inner cities. As public health groups study the implications of particular living conditions on public health, they are finding some interesting results related to income level. According to a British study published in 2008 in the medical journal The Lancet, the health differences between wealthy and poor residents are much narrower in communities that have more green space. This suggests that one way to help close the health gap that exists in our country between rich and poor is to encourage more development of green spaces.
Inequities in our society often prompt calls to action. But rather than waiting for the federal government to pass new laws, it’s often individuals at the community level who are activists, working together to influence public policy. As Misra Walker’s story demonstrates, even a community’s youth may lead the fight for environmental justice. Youth activism has been aimed at a variety of issues related to environmental and public health, including clean water and clean air, community gardens, and HIV/AIDS and smoking prevention.
Academic standards correlations on Teachers' Domain use the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) database of state and national standards, provided to NSDL projects courtesy of JES & Co.
We assign reference terms to each statement within a standards document and to each media resource, and correlations are based upon matches of these terms for a given grade band. If a particular standards document of interest to you is not displayed yet, it most likely has not yet been processed by ASN or by Teachers' Domain. We will be adding social studies and arts correlations over the coming year, and also will be increasing the specificity of alignment.