Over the past two years, long-ignored societal inequities have gained more exposure as broad swaths of our global economy faced unprecedented challenges.
We continue to face ever increasing numbers of extreme weather events, severe losses in biodiversity, massive displacement, and migration of global peoples, and many are not able to access basic quality community infrastructures such as neighborhood parks.
It is harder than ever before to avoid acknowledging the reality that our investment decisions have benefitted some at the cost of many more and while we have accomplished and built many great things, decisions that lessen our collective well-being have been to the detriment of all.
As we face the newest stages of an ever-evolving pandemic, it is now more pressing than ever for global leaders to work to understand those who have been harmed by past decisions and commit to bold changes to create a better world for future generations. The 2021 World Urban Parks Congress focused on Creating a Vision of the Future from the Legacy of the Past. Major themes for the Congress focused on questions including:
– How will we shape a legacy and grow emerging leaders?
– Can we learn from the past and enable the future?
– How will we ensure equity and access to parks and their health and wellness benefits?
– What is the emerging 22nd century park, it isn’t about best practices but next practices?
While the past has brought us challenges, it is also an enormous source of inspiration and lessons learned. In this moment, we must reflect and learn from our past actions and decisions to clearly envision the problems ahead, connect authentically with those who will face the brunt of continuing and growing harms, and find new ways to meaningfully commit to making difficult changes that can provide a hopeful path toward a more equitable future.
Now is the time to invest in a 22nd century future that learns from the past and builds lasting sustainability, resilience, and livability for all. We have an opportunity to create a new vision for future cities of the world a vision that ensures our legacy includes and is to the benefit of all, To build a better 22nd century, we must interrogate our historic relationships to urban, suburban, and rural natural spaces, and how they are maintained, designed, programmed, secured, and located.
We need to evolve our historical policies such as in park safety, remove park entry fees which limit access for various racial groups and those with lower income and education levels, invest in improving poor park conditions and smaller sized parks in communities of color and low-income communities, and learn from indigenous knowledge and stewardship practices that have maintained healthy ecosystems for decades.
Across all these needs, we must commit to facilitating tough conversations with those who have benefited from the legacy paradigm, building empathy and support for those who have not benefited, and generating consensus around new ideas that can create vibrant, healthy, inclusive, and equitable communities where all citizens can live healthier and happier lives.