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This summer, I led the project “Dose of Nature- Urban Forest and Human Health” funded by U.S. Forest Preservation, a prestigious national institution in the field of Landscape Architecture.

We traveled about 30 days in Middle-West region and visited more than 50 single-house communities, most of them are products of  Urban Sprawl.

They look not bad  if you just look at those photos, however, I believe you will change your idea if you really got a chance to walk in those communities, let alone living there.

There are several characteristics that really impede social life and human health:

  1. Heavily reliance on driving private vehicles.  A normal adult living in suburban community spends 1-2 hours on commute and they have much less time on family and community activities;
  2. Few destinations for recreation and entertainment in walking distance.  Lack of ” Third Space” in community decreases opportunity of creating strong social network, physical exercise, and casual social interaction with neighbors, which may elicit a series of health problems: depression, stress, use of drug, tobacco, and alcohol, obesity, etc.
  3. Children and teenage don’t have chance to learn from much role models other than their parents. They are “cul-de-sac” kids without experiencing enough social challenges before they biologically become adults.
  4. Lack of memorial spaces and attractions make it is impossible to create a strong “sense of place” for residents.
  5. Social Justice: The heavy investment on highway and other infrastructures to support urban sprawl has pushed socioeconomic-disadvantaged people living in inner-city areas into a more miserable situation.
  6. Elderly people have to move out to find a retirement community because suburban communities cannot provide appropriate places for them, which means a dramatic disconnection of social life that has been proved as an important reason of depression among elderly people.