Helping Veterans with Green Spaces

By Susan Littlefield

Gardeners know the feeling of peace and well-being that working out in the garden brings. Now Keith Tidwell, a senior Extension associate in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, is investigating the role that green spaces and exposure to the natural world can have in helping veterans heal from the trauma of war.

Tidwell calls his concept "greening in the red zone" and as principal investigator for a federal grant "Returning Warriors: A Study of the Social-Ecological Benefits of Coming Home to Nature," he is working with veteran's organizations and the Army base at Fort Drum, NY to promote greening practices such as tree planting, community gardening, habitat restoration, and time alone in nature to help ease the stress of soldiers returning from war.

According to Tidwell, nature's role in helping people recover from war, political upheaval, and natural disasters often gets overlooked by policymakers and planners. He cites the example of the many trees cut down or damaged after Hurricane Katrina in the haste to restore power. "That ended up being even more devastating for some people than the flooding," he noted. Tidwell hopes to encourage those involved in helping with recoveries of all sorts to recognize and honor the importance of the natural environment and people's relationship to it in the recovery process. And perhaps his work can serve as inspiration for gardeners across the country who are interested in giving back to our servicemen and women.

To read more about Tidwell's work, go to Cornell Chronicle.

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