Photo, detail: cc Sean McGrath, thanks!
Street trees impart benefits well beyond absorbing greenhouse gases: they reduce stress, speed healing, and cut our cost of living. And that’s just the beginning.
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST JOSH POLLOCK
Website Josh Pollock’s ComplexWaveform.com
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It’s United Nations week and the Mashable.com/ UN Foundation Social Good Summit begins today in New York City. This conference, running concurrent with the annual United Nations General Assembly will highlight innovative, new ecofriendly technologies.
While there is great need for high tech solutions to the climate crisis it is important not to forget the simple solutions we already have, such as street trees.
Greening the city
When we think of the process of greening the city, we often think of it as a way to make our surroundings prettier and to absorb some of the greenhouse gases that we are constantly spewing into the air.
While this is true, planting trees and other plant life has benefits well beyond that, changing the way we urban dwellers relate to nature in a place that we tend to think is devoid of nature. Street trees also help cool the city and your home. When trees shade your home they reduce the money you spend on bills for heating and air conditioning.
Timon McPhearson a professor of Environmental Studies at The New School is conducting a study on urban reforestation as part of MillionTreesNYC. McPhearson says,
We know that urban trees are important to cities because they absorb storm water that would otherwise flow into our waterways, they capture carbon and other air pollutants, and cool the city through shading.
We are lucky in New York City to have such extensive forested areas in our parks and protected lands, but street trees are just as important.
These are all good reasons for planting trees in our cities, but there is a greater intrinsic value to surrounding ourselves in greenery. Children who grow up surrounded by plant life deal with stress better then those who do not. Plant life in hospitals has been shown to help speed healing. Performing environmental restoration work helps people deal with psychological traumas and has even been shown to reduce recidivism among ex-cons, juvenile delinquents, and parolees.
Integrating green: not special but functional, everyday
We can surround ourselves with other life forms by making them a functional part of the built environment. Greenroofs, composting, as well as passive climate control and water filtration systems make participating in the natural process part of everyday lives.
We stop being consumers of natural resources and instead become participants in natural processes.
In cities we often don’t think there is nature, but we eat what grows on the ground and power our homes and cars with what comes from deep within the Earth. Making the city greener, literally by planting for beauty and productivity makes us mindful, active participants in a process that we never actually left.
If these sound like intimidating goals to reach for, start small. A good place to start is with a tree in front of your home or enhancing the look and smell of your living space by gardening in or around your home. There are urban tree programs like New York City’s MillionTreesNYC program all over the country that need volunteers for planting days, to adopt trees and make financial contributions. You can reshape your city by getting involved in your city’s tree planting project.
Josh Pollock is a student of Environmental Studies at Goddard College, where he studies practical sustainable design for urban areas. He lives in New York City and works as an audio engineer and web designer. His website is http://www.ComplexWaveform.com
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.