Does the world need more green spaces?

The benefits of plants

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What the world needs isn't more gee-whiz digital gadgets but more gardeners and more green spaces. That's the contention of  Shirley Bovshow, TV garden host and writer. And she makes her case eloquently in The World Needs More Eden Makers.

"An Eden Maker," she explains,  "brings a little bit of paradise to our world by creating a garden, growing a plant or preserving the beauty of our natural world by establishing a beneficial relationship with nature.”

Think about that term natural world. Using dictionary definitions, it's what's real, not artificial or manufactured, innately felt to be right, normal or usual.

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Yet, think about how little Americans' normal or usual lives connect with nature. Many (most?) of us are more likely to have daily interaction with technology -- computers, PDAs, cellphones, and cars -- than we are with plants.

Yet, study after study shows that people feel better and do better work when they're around greenery. Outdoors, trees, shrubs, and yes, even grass, help improve the environment. Indoors, a number of houseplants work hard at improving air quality.

Some cities and companies have recognized this need for greenery and tried to improve surroundings for residents and workers, as well as provide places for community gardens.

And some regreening efforts turn up in surprising places: In Britain, Jailbirds creating eco-haven in prisons, an article in the Guardian reports on what's happening in numerous prisons as inmates become "conservationists as they use their time behind bars to help protect vital natural habitats that are home to rare species."

You've got to read that one -- it's fascinating!

But what can individuals do? Here's a nice article in the Baltimore Sun about what some people have done for 25 years. (And I can highly recommend the book based on this project, "Open Spaces, Sacred Places," and will have a review up within a week.)

As Shirley says, "Eden Makers will always be in demand." And that will be true no matter where we are or what we have to work with. I recall a touching essay in the Monitor about efforts to create natural beauty where there's little or none.

I'm not against technology. Without it, neither Shirley nor I would be communicating with you. But I suspect that none of us want to wake up one day and find that the green spaces we love are in danger of disappearing. If not, what are we going to do about it?

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