Social Science

Dr. Kathleen Wolf, a research social scientist at the University of Washington, describes an approach to social science as place attachment. Social science research focuses on qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative research which is used for many studies is measured by exploring themes, meanings of human interactions, or patterns.
The word topophilia means, “a strong sense of place or the bond between people and a special place” (Wolf et al. 2014). A space can be turned into a place when humans begin to associate or attach value to a given area. It is constructed and solely influenced by human dynamics, beliefs, cultures, economies, and more (Wolf et al. 2014). Another concept that Wolf mentions in the University of Washington’s Green Cities: Good Health, is metro nature.
This concept is referring to any nature that is nearby to an individual or community. Metro nature can include community gardens, greenbelts, parks, and trails. Spaces that can provide both functionality and natural elements like green roofs are also considered to be metro nature, that is, nature found within metropolitan areas (Wolf et al. 2014).

Often, people become attached to peaceful, green spaces that offer physical or mental breaks. Natural settings are favored as part in place to reflect on emotional and mental stability. Attachments can be formed to a familiar garden or park because an individual finds it as their favorite place. The more someone can interact with a place and form an attachment, the greater likelihood they will have a positive experience.
The Green Heart Project which was launched in October 2017, in Louisville, KY, is aiming to look at green spaces in neighborhoods and how it could be linked to human health. Led by the University of Louisville, The Nature Conservancy, the Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil, and Hyphae Design Laboratory, the team will perform the first controlled experiment that will test urban greenery the same way a pharmaceutical intervention would be tested.
The five-year health study will look at air pollution at the time of the study within the first fall and assess the risk for health challenges like heart disease, stress levels, and diabetes. Next fall, the team will plant 8,000 trees throughout the neighborhood in order to create an urban ecosystem that can alleviate stress, mitigate traffic noises, and decrease air pollution. Of the 700 participants that are from the neighborhood, annual check-ups will be done to evaluate how the change or increase in greenery has affected their mental health (The Nature Conservancy 2017).
Recently, there has been growing evidence that urban tree canopy holds health-promoting potential in an urban setting. High-resolution LiDAR and imagery data was used to quantify tree canopy within 250 meters of the homes of 7,910 adults that took part in the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). Tree cover and multiple health measures were later tested. An urban forest found in Sacramento, California was the study area for this test.

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