Nature Towns are walkable communities, with plenty of places to go within a short walk of home. True walkability requires a higher population density than that of typical American neighborhoods (most of which are car-dependent suburbs). During this time of social distancing – physical distancing, really – to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is natural to wonder whether one would want to live in a more densely populated place: after all, New York City, the densest place in the United States, is experiencing the worst of the epidemic so far.
We think the answer is still Yes. Density that enables walkability helps protect nature and improves overall quality of life.
We need a Holistic Outlook
If you have met Patrick or me, or spent much time on this website, you will know by now that we aim to be holistic in our outlook. We believe deeply that nothing occurs in a vacuum, and all things are connected. It is for this reason that we place such heavy emphasis on biodiversity for the farm and diversity within the community. When it comes to human health, we try to consider the whole picture.
It is clear by now that there is a high correlation between comorbidities and mortality from this virus. In other words, people with pre-existing, underlying health conditions are at much higher risk for severe illness or even death from COVID-19.
Environment Plays a Key Role
Adding to that, a just-released Harvard study stated that “People with COVID-19 who live in U.S. regions with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die from the disease than people who live in less polluted areas.”
Similar studies with such conclusions have been conducted for decades, bolstering arguments for more stringent pollution controls. Fine-particulate air pollution, such as that generated by cars, power plants, and refineries, equates to a pre-existing condition when it comes to many respiratory illnesses. This is hardly a surprise. Lungs already stressed from air pollution are more likely to be harmed when another stressor such as a virus attacks them.
Overall Quality of Life is Important
Furthermore, scientists have also found clear links between stress and lower health outcomes. Stress causes release of the hormone cortisol, which “alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Conversely, reducing stress levels helps improve wellness levels.
Dan Buettner, who studies longevity around the world and has written extensively about so-called Blue Zones, the places where people live longest, lists nine factors that contribute to long life expectancy. They include regularly practicing natural movement (as opposed to intensive workouts), lowering stress levels, eating well, and being connected to family and friends in a solid social network.
Good Health Depends on Multiple Factors
It is clear that survival and health depend on multiple factors, never just one – even in the face of a pandemic.
Nature Towns are designed to provide most of the positive factors that contribute to wellness and longevity, and density plays a key role. The walkability increases natural movement, while reducing vehicle emissions and localized air pollution. The allotment gardens offer exercise and connection to the earth at the same time. The food from the regenerative farm will be the highest quality available, and the local microclimate will be cleaner and cooler, with fresher air due to the thousands of trees we plant. The walkable design and population density – which will be far lower than that of NYC, as buildings are no higher than 3 or 4 stories, and most are single-family homes – also contribute to people getting to know their neighbors, because they see one another regularly.
Nature Towns Optimize Health – Nature’s and Yours
Unlike any other development, Nature Towns are also being designed from the start to optimize the health of the local ecosystem and the people living in it. We are not separate from nature, but part of it. We cannot poison nature with emissions into the air, soil, and water without experiencing some backlash. Nature Towns improve human health by improving ecosystem health.
So all of the stressors that damage health are reduced in this model, and all the factors that contribute to good health are present.
Will Nature Towns cure you of COVID-19 or guarantee that you won’t suffer from it? No, of course not. But we do think that living in a Nature Town will give you the best shot at experiencing your own Blue Zone and living a healthy, happy, fulfilled, long life through all of the turbulence in years to come.