National Geographic : 1914 Jul
CONSERVING THE BEAUTY OF NATURE nature which city congestion has within a single generation made almost impos sible for multitudes. While the exclusion of bad influences needs to be unremitting, the good influ ences - fortunately for crowded urban populations-need not all be incessantly in action. An occasional holiday in a city park or garden, a week-end in the coun try now and then, or a fortnight's vaca tion in summer may make deep and last ing mental impressions, and supply both children and adults with wholesome ma terial to fill the mind and direct its ener gies for months and years. Hence the importance of better city and suburban planning, of public reserva tions of all sorts in city and state, and of national parks and monuments. All these modes of public action tell not only on the physical well-being of both urban and rural populations, but on the mental training of children and on the cultivation in the whole population of thoroughly healthy spiritual interests and uplifting enjoyments, both individual and social. The profession of landscape architect ure is going to be-indeed, it already is the most direct professional contributor to the improvement of the human en vironment in the twentieth century, be cause it is devoted not only to the im provement of housing and of town and city designing, but also to the creation, preservation, and enlargement of op portunities for human enjoyment of mountains and valleys, hills and plains, forests and flowers, ponds and water courses, spring blossoms and autumn tints, and the wild life of birds and other animals in their natural haunts. These are the things that city dwellers need to have opportunities to see and enjoy; these are the things that serve as antidotes to the unwholesome excitements and ten sions of modern city life; these are the delights which, by occupying the mind and satisfying the spirit, keep out de grading thoughts and foul desires. THE VITAL PROBLEM TODAY IS HOW TO FEED THE MENTAL HEALTH OE MULTITUDES That good environment can modify favorably the effects of heredity is as true of nations as of individuals. The vital question of modern life is how to feed the mental health and spiritual growth of multitudes. In the modern world life is tightly packed against life, and one life is interwoven with many others. Neither freedom of mind nor health of body can be secured in isola tion; for both blessings the individual must hereafter be dependent on social or collective action. The present evils of city life and the factory system-bad conditions which civilization has itself created-have de veloped their destructive forces in this country in spite of the schools and churches and of free political institutions, and in spite of many happy influences from art, poetry, music, and the drama. Clearly, society needs to develop a new and better environment for the general life-an environment favorable to both bodily and mental health and to the at tainment of genuine happiness-not of mere momentary excitements, pleasures, and gratifications, but of solid content ment, and the lasting satisfactions of life enjoyed in quietness and peace. What are the means of compassing this end? The readiest means is good planning of city, town, and landscape-first ap plied to areas still open, and then gradu ally to areas already occupied in unde sirable ways. The new planning must take into account the interests of the whole community, as well as the interests of individual owners, the social or col lective interest always prevailing. The immediate objects to be sought are more light and air for dwellings, offices, shops, and factories, and thus a spreading out of cities; the transfer of factories to suburbs and to country sites along the lines of railway; the multiplication of playgrounds and open decorated areas, and above all the attachment of a piece of arable or garden ground to every fam ily dwelling. Many of these results can certainly be attained; and indeed much work of this sort is already started in regulating the height of buildings, trans ferring factories and setting up new plants in smaller towns, enlarging school yards, and creating public parks and gar dens.