The Turkish Taksim Gezi Park Protests: Not Just a Green or Political Protest!

Taksim Gezi Park (www.showdiscontent.com)

Taksim Gezi Park (www.showdiscontent.com)


The recent and ongoing protests in Turkey related to the Taksim Gezi Park redevelopment are not only an example of a lack of participatory and community decision making that serves to make cities and urban spaces less sustainable and /or equitable. The protests also serve to highlight the importance of Public Open Space (POS), and specifically soft and green POS in the creation of sustainable cities.

We all know that sustainable cities need effective public transportation systems and high density mixed land uses. However, often during the planning process; public transportation, density, efficiency and the need for mixed use urban environments as well as politics and economics tend to overshadow the need for soft and green POS. This ultimately results in urban environments which are lacking in softer spaces.

In order to create sustainable and equitable urban environments it is essential that we are able to balance the needs of public transportation, density, the need for mixed use urban environments, politics and economics with the societal, cultural and environmental needs. We need to always bear in mind that there is a great deal of value in soft green public open spaces that is often overlooked in the search for the creation of sustainable cities and a focus on energy efficiency and density. This has resulted in the undervaluing of soft, green public open spaces.

If we increase the value we place on soft and green public open spaces we will be able to move towards ensuring that such open spaces are able to compete with and balance out the need for harder public open spaces such as service roads, malls and parking lots during the planning process. In so doing we may be able to prevent protests and political unrest such as we are experiencing in Turkey.

The Park after site clearing prior to construction (www.showdiscontent.com)

The Park after site clearing prior to construction (www.showdiscontent.com)

Some of the key and important services provided by soft or green public open spaces are;
•As spaces for cultural and social interaction
•As breathing spaces from the urban activities
•In the provision of essential ecosystem and climate change mitigation and adaptation services offered by such as;
oClimate regulation
oReducing air pollution and acting as carbon sinks though the provision of ecosystem services provided
by trees and vegetation.
oActing as wetlands and sponges to facilitate a more effective and less expensive way to manage storm
water runoff (than building systems of concrete sewers and drainage ditches etc).
oActing as biodiversity islands

The Turkish government’s proposal to redevelop the existing Taksim Gezi square and park reveals the need for not only participatory planning, transparency of government and accountability but also a need to ensure that a balance is found between social, political, economic and environmental needs.

Protesters (www.showdiscontent.com)

Protesters (www.showdiscontent.com)

Additional reading on the Turkish Taksim Gezi Park Protests;
on usatoday
on wikipedia
on Taksim Platformu
on showdiscontent

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One thought on “The Turkish Taksim Gezi Park Protests: Not Just a Green or Political Protest!

  1. and not to forget the all important Early Childhood Development impacts: (some of which below)
    • Supports multiple development domains. Nature
    is important to children’s development in every major
    way—intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and
    physically (Kellert, 2005).
    Supports creativity and problem solving. Studies
    of children in schoolyards found that children engage
    in more creative forms of play in the green areas. They
    also played more cooperatively (Bell and Dyment,
    2006). Play in nature is especially impor tant for
    developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving,
    and intellectual development (Kellert, 2005).
    • Enhances cognitive abilities. Proximity to, views
    of, and daily exposure to natural settings increases
    children’s ability to focus and enhances cognitive
    abilities (Wells, 2000).
    • Improves academic performance. Studies in the US
    show that schools that use outdoor classrooms and
    other forms of nature-based experiential education
    support significant student gains in social studies,
    science, language arts, and math. Students in outdoor
    science programs improved their science testing scores
    by 27% (American Institutes for Research, 2005).
    • Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms.
    Contact with the natural world can significantly reduce
    symptoms of attention deficit disorder in children as
    young as five years old (Kuo and Taylor, 2004).
    • Increases physical activity. Children who experience
    school grounds with diverse natural settings are more
    physically active, more aware of nutrition, more civil to
    one another and more creative (Bell and Dyment, 2006).
    • Improves nutrition. Children who grow their own
    food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables (Bell &
    Dyment, 2008) and to show higher levels of knowledge
    about nutrition (Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2006). They are
    also more likely to continue healthy eating habits
    throughout their lives (Morris & Zidenberg-Cherr, 2002).
    • Improves eyesight. More time spent outdoors is
    related to reduced rates of nearsightedness, also known
    as myopia, in children and adolescents (American
    Academy of Ophthalmology, 2011).
    • Improves social relations. Children will be smar ter,
    better able to get along with others, healthier and
    happier when they have regular opportunities for free
    and unstructured play in the out-of-doors (Burdette and
    Whitaker, 2005).
    • Improves self-discipline. Access to green spaces, and
    even a view of green settings, enhances peace, selfcontrol
    and self-discipline within inner city youth, and
    particularly in girls (Taylor, Kuo and Sullivan, 2001).
    • Reduces stress. Green plants and vistas reduce stress
    among highly stressed children. Locations with greater
    number of plants, greener views, and access to natural
    play areas show more significant results (Wells and
    Evans, 2003).

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