Since 2015, policy makers, local governments, organisations and climate change activists amongst others have referred to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) as a benchmark and a blueprint for change in order to help society reduce the harmful effects of climate change across the world. Launched by the United Nations, the SDG’s have identified 17 key thematic areas, or goals, which act as a Call for Action, encouraging citizens across the world to adapt and change their behaviours in order to ensure a more sustainable future for citizens across the world (United Nations, 2022a).
How can the SDGs correlate with Green Care?
At the heart of the SDG’s is the sustainable practices philosophy, which empowers global citizens to make sustainable choices in their lives, which will support world economies to meet the ambitious targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which endeavours to support peace, transformation and cooperation between all individuals and corporations.
However, in order to achieve these sustainable practices, according to Springer Nature (2022), ‘good health and wellbeing are essential to sustainable development’. These beliefs and ideologies are also reflected in the definition of Green Care which promotes “physical and mental health and well-being through contact with nature” (Sempik et al., 2010, p.121).
This article will present SDG 3 and SDG 8 and will illustrate how each of these goals can promote green care within local communities and can encourage global citizens to become actors in their local communities and stand up to the effects that climate change has on the world.
Sustainable Development Goal #3: Good Health and Wellbeing
According to the United Nations (2022b), Goal 3 aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages“. It is well documented that the COVID-19 pandemic had an effect on the mental health of citizens, and in light of this, citizens around the world have reported to having more challenges with their mental health than pre-pandemic. Reports currently estimate that between 10-15% of children will suffer from mental health challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the mobility restrictions placed on global citizens (Deeker, 2022).
Additionally, according to research undertaken in Ireland in 2016 by the organisation Mental Health Ireland;
- 18.5% of the Irish population suffered from a mental health illness (Mental Health Ireland, 2022a).
- 39% of respondents illustrated “exercise” as a tool that can be used to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages.
- 10% of respondents illustrated the importance of practicing mindfulness and yoga.
As societies across the globe begin to open up after 2-years under COVID-19 related restrictions, Mental Health Ireland propose that in order to ensure healthy lives (as per SDG #3), citizens are encouraged to be active in nature and be present, one of the key elements that the Green Care philosophy proposes. To do so, citizens can start by noticing seasonal changes in flora and fauna, connecting with nature in a meaningful way, and enjoying fresh air and exercise, especially with loved ones (Mental Health Ireland, 2022b).
Sustainable Development Goal #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
According to the United Nations (2022c), Goal 8 aims to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
The Green4C project promotes four thematic strand areas which act as an opportunity for community leaders and actors to become entrepreneurs, promote economic growth and develop decent working conditions for all. Within these 4 thematic areas, namely (1) Forest-based care; (2) Urban Green Care; (3) Social Agriculture; (4) Green Care tourism, a myriad of options are available to potential entrepreneurs who are looking to provide employment options for themselves, such as rural based tour guides, physical and spiritual retreat providers or even horticultural therapy providers.
Across Ireland, many Local Enterprise Offices are offering a ‘Start Your Own Business Course’ to residents who are interested in establishing their own enterprise, to ensure that they will have decent work and economic opportunities in the future.
Failing to consider the mental and physical health of global citizens in this post pandemic world could have drastic consequences on the ability of the United Nations to meet SDG3. Through providing green care solutions, such as nature based trails and mindfulness activities, governments across the world can protect their citizens and ensure healthy lives for citizens of all ages.
Furthermore, opportunities within the Green Care sector are endless and require individuals to this “outside of the box” in order to identify, recognise and promote Green Care opportunities in their areas.
Stephanie Kirwan, Debbie Bough (Meath Partnership)
- Deeker, W. (2022) The Covid generation: the effects of the pandemic on youth mental health.
- Mental Health Ireland (2022a) Research.
- Mental Health Ireland (2022b) 5,000 steps to Wellbeing walk.
- Springer Nature (2022) Springer Nature SDG Programme: SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing.
- United Nations (2022) The Sustainable Development Goals.
- United Nations (2022b) Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
- United Nations (2022c) Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.