Climate Change, Public Health, and Landscape Infrastructure

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Helping a city become resilient to climate change calls for landscape designs that anticipate disruptions and increase place-specific preparedness to assist communities in adapting to and preventing potential health risks. This article explores the role of the physical landscape in strategies for bolstering the resilience for a city in China.

Specific threats to public health include the direct effects of heat, vector-borne diseases, water-borne diseases, and respiratory diseases related to diminished air quality. All of these concerns are directly related to the physical landscape that generates the “public health ecology” of the city, suggesting that the work of landscape architects can have a significant impact on the health of urban residents. 

The five landscape strategies profiled in this article address reuse strategies for the large amount of "waste" soil excavated during construction activities, slope stabilization and rehabilitation to prevent endemic landslides, mitigation of the heat island effect—the tendency for a city to be hotter than its surrounding areas—through a network of green spaces, filtration and temporary storage of water runoff, and reorganization of coastal levees to include more features like tidal wetlands and storm surge berms. 

This article draws from student research conducted in Yueqing City, in Zhejiang Province, China, where students at the University of Hong Kong studied design strategies to improve urban resilience and support human health. "Resilient Yueqing: Climate Change, Public Health and Landscape Infrastructure," published in Landscape Architecture Frontiers, profiles student research and proposed design interventions.

This work was supported by the Chareon Pokphand Group through the HAPI (Health and Places Initiative) Project. 

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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