Dissertation Abstracts

Beyond the Greenness: Gardens and Public Parks as Response to the Contemporary Socioenvironmental Challenges. A study in the city of Porto, Portugal

Author: Diogo G Vidal, diogoguedesvidal@hotmail.com
Department: UFP Energy, Environment and Health Research Unit
University: University Fernando Pessoa, Portugal
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Rui Leandro Maia; Prof. Dr. Nelson Barros; Prof. Dra. Helena Vilaça
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: Urban Green Spaces , Environmental Justice , Inequalities , Ecosystems Services
Areas of Research: Environment and Society , Community Research , Health


Cities must be pleasant and healthy spaces able to contribute to ecosystems regeneration and to bring closer Humans and Nature. Increase urbanization carries socio-environmental challenges that may be tackled by promoting green spaces as safeguarders of sustainability and of the connection between users and the biosphere. Cities are unequal spaces regarding the distribution of available resources and infrastructures (Bourdieu 1993, Maia 2003, Tilly, 2005, Therborn, 2006, Massey, 2007, Costa, 2012). The 11th goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states that societies must ensure universal access to safe, inclusive and fully accessible public spaces. The production and reproduction of space is a competition process for the physical and symbolic space which results in the creation of socio-economic clusters within the cities, with cities emerging within the city. The fair distribution of urban green spaces must be ensured in both quantity and quality in terms of ecological, social or health promotion services. The concept of Environmental Justice assumes that all individuals, regardless of their social, cultural or economic condition, should have the right to a fair treatment and to get involved in the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental regulations and policies (Lawson, 2008). The main goals of this research are: identify and evaluate the characteristics of the gardens and parks according to their of availability and accessibility (evaluation of location, distance, size, safety quality), aesthetics (landscape, quality and perception) and existence of structures and equipment (infrastructure and services); evaluate how the ecosystems services of gardens and public parks in the city Porto are responding to contemporary social and ecological challenges and, consequently, which differences are found within city socioeconomic and environmental vulnerability clusters; study the impacts of gardens and urban parks on use and function - observation of mobility, physical activity and social sharing - as well as on social functions and their use; evaluate the existente (or not) of an equity in the distribution of gardens and urban parks within the city of Porto. The methods used are: an evaluation grid composed by 4 sections related to activities, environmental quality, facilities and security; a survey applied to urban green space users; and, finally a behavioural mapping construction. The importance of this research is related to the fact that to pursue the sustainable development is imperative a commitment between civil society, political decision-makers and academics because urban inequality undermines sustainability efforts.