Why You Should Be Scared to Death of Air Pollution

Part One of our “Benefits of Urban Gardening” Series

Air. We need it to breathe.

This is a painfully obvious observation; yet, due to the alarming decline in the quality of our air due to human activity and the fact that  about 5.5 million deaths are attributed to the increase in air pollutants, it is necessary to iterate this obvious statement all the more in our current situation.

Air Pollution: A Detriment

Because of the increasing world population, and that more than half of the world lives in densely populated cities, nearly all of us will be adversely affected by air pollution, if we haven’t been already.

The effects of air pollution on our health are well-documented. For adults, health concerns that stem from air pollution include increased respiratory failure, decreased lung function and even premature death.

For children worldwide, the effects are even more severe as their immune systems are less developed and thus more sensitive to pollution.

The need for solutions to this problem has never been greater.

Urban Gardening…

One way urban communities have been dealing with the increase in air pollution is through urban gardening. Urban gardening is a worldwide phenomenon that has taken on as many ideations as there are farms. For most cities, urban gardening is used as a means of food production which also helps vulnerable communities in economic development.  Though urban food production isn’t without controversy (as the produce merely absorbs the pollutants that people thus ingest while others argue that the effects of this is arguably minimal), the data is clear: more greenery in cities helps improve the overall air quality.

…Improves Health and Community

Adding these green spaces to major cities helps with both mental and physical health of the cities’ residents. Studies have found that the intentional placement of certain grasses, trees and ivy can reduce the levels of NO2 in cities by up to 40 percent and microscopic particulate matter by 60 percent.
Furthermore, when urban dwellers participate in gardening, there is an increase in healthy dietary habits. Statistically, individuals who farm in urban areas have a higher intake of micro-nutrients such as vitamin A and iron.

Additionally, the desire to build community grows as urban farmers are more willing to share the produce with neighbors, friends, and community members in need. This community effect helps alleviate symptoms of stress and depression as well.

Although the infrastructure to incentivize businesses to build more green spaces in and surrounding buildings is lacking, city dwellers with a window sill or a small backyard can help improve urban air quality. So, whether you’re a city homeowner or an apartment dweller, urban gardening is an accessible way to improve the quality of our air and the quality of our lives. Get started on your urban garden today!

Want to learn more about the benefits of urban gardening? Read more on how they can positively impact students and schools.