Vitalija POVILAITYTE PETRIa and Katriina KILPIb
Institution: aUniversité Libre de Bruxelles, ULB – Belgium; bSwedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU – Sweden
Keywords: Nature, Connection, Health, Resilience
Almost 50 % of the City of Brussels territory contain non-built spaces. The urban forest contains 20 % of Brussels green areas which provide various ecosystem services and benefits for human health and wellbeing. In addition, Brussels City hosts large number of nationalities and ethnical bio-cultural traditions rooted in forest and nature cultures from all over the world. This makes Brussels City a unique place with specific geographical situation, cultural diversity and large number of urban green territories with lots of potential for connecting people with nature for their health and resilience, and development of pro-environmental behaviours.
The case study on nature connection activities such as forest bathing, forest therapy, nature mindfulness and urban foraging of wild food plants in urban forests of the City of Brussels has been carried out through analyses of available literature, information on relevant websites and social media, visits to the urban forest sites, meetings with professionals working in the field, environmental education and nature conservation organisations, creative artists and ecologists, following the activities in urban forests, as well as taking part in various events related to urban forest based health interventions and foraging of wild food plants in City of Brussels.
The study results showed that the interest in urban forests based interventions and urban foraging in Brussels has been highly increasing lately. This regained focus on healing effects of urban forests has been applied to modern life styles in urban areas through various local community-driven health, social, cultural and educational projects. The examples of such numerous, interesting and useful projects are being found in different sites of urban forests. Many of them are directly related to sustainable, efficient, safe and rational management of urban nature resources to promote recreation, healthy lifestyles, disease prevention, social integration or intangible cultural heritage protection. They include various forest based interventions for human health restoration and arts-based environmental education. The identified activities are individual needs-centred and aim to grow healthy, resilient, environmentally responsible and empowered EU citizens of all ages and situations.