Coming off of I-70 after a lengthy drive from IU-Bloomington, I am faced with the tawny color of a town called Greenfield. This is my hometown that I delightedly point to when meeting new colleagues throughout my higher education, yet I feel deceptive when describing the town that I hold dear. The lack of green space in Hancock County is negatively impacting local carbon emissions and holding back our communities socially and medically. Altering our urban environments to include green areas which will ultimately improve life expectancy, lower our carbon footprint and increase the overall happiness of Greenfield residents.
According to the EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening Tool (EJScreen), Greenfield sits in the 80-95 percentile for low life expectancy. This could be corrected through more actual green space with the city. According to a study published in ‘Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health’ (Jonker, M. F., et al.), there is a correlation between amount of green space and life longevity. Green space can be defined as uninterrupted areas of nature for human enjoyment, which may also have a positive impact on reducing climate altering greenhouse gas emissions. Including these spaces in urban areas of Greenfield would make them more accessible to residents with mobility issues and those under the poverty line — two groups that are often cited as benefiting the most from access to nature.
People in Greenfield are tired of the new fast-food restaurants and stores that crumble in under five years. Our town is not healthy, not sustainable, and not satisfactory for many of its citizens. We have the solution in front of us, but it is up to our government to make it happen. The implementation of Beckenholdt Park off of E 300 N has been met with countless visitors, students and our beloved local dogs. I have spoken with various residents about their enjoyment of the space, and I guarantee they will back an initiative to expand these areas as opposed to more infrastructure. We can do it, and in fact we already have. I was exploring information about Greenfield, which had 12 waterbodies listed within the EPA’s ‘How’s My Waterway’ tool. These water bodies were a part of the Richey Ditch Brandywine Creek watershed. The first waterbody I looked at was Brandywine stream, which is in Riley park. It is listed as being in good condition for both aquatic life and swimming and boating. This is just one example of a green space that is both sustainable and open for human enjoyment.
The benefits of zoning green areas expand into our city and state’s overall carbon footprint. In the 2022 report, Indiana emitted more than 185 million metric tons of climate-altering gasses into the atmosphere. Hancock County has not only an opportunity but an obligation to reduce these numbers through any means necessary. The easiest way to do this while also increasing public satisfaction is through the implementation of green infrastructure. The unfortunate truth is that Greenfield is not green, and this will only be exacerbated by the impacts of rising global temperatures.
To be sure, there are many economic benefits to industrialization and the implementation of more establishments in our town. However, the societal and environmental impacts will be far too great to justify such an expanse of industry. Through implementation of parks, waterways, and tree canopy expansion, we can boost the economy while also uplifting our community. People have called for moves to protect agriculture, green spaces, and the quality of life that Greenfield promises its residents, but no one is asking for more chain businesses and factories. It is up to our elected officials to represent us in the way we demand, not in the way that fills the pockets of those farthest removed from daily life in our community. I speak on behalf of our community’s youth and insist that we prioritize a green future for ourselves and our future descendants. We have the opportunity to put the green back in Greenfield, and it is time to take it.
Julianne Hatcher is a Greenfield native and student at Indiana University.