I live in a rainforest. Well, the remnants of one; my home is in a town called White Rock, BC, near the Canadian/US border (we share a sandy beach on the Pacific). At the beginning of the last century there were first growth cedar and Douglas fir forests as far as the eye could see. The forests hosted and nourished a diverse range of plants and animals, with the canopy providing refuge and protection for all, even the wild salmon that filled rivers and streams every fall. The old growth forests are mostly gone now, having been logged in the 1910’s and 1920’s, replaced by cities, subdivisions and malls.
But trees have a remarkable tenacity; new forests have grown up in among human habitat. The urban forests provide for deer, coyotes and other wild creatures, and the rivers still hold salmon. The ability for nature to regenerate, repopulate and heal is astounding.
In the top Happy Eco News story this last week, a developer in Mexico plans to build the first forest city in Mexico. Forest cities are a relatively recent idea and have really gained acceptance in China, where rampant air pollution threatens local populations with respiratory illness, and heat from the sun is magnified by the extensive use of concrete and asphalt building materials.
Trees trap and filter the pollution from automotive emissions, power generation and industrial processes. In some cases they can remove up to 50% of the particulate created by cars and trucks. Of course, we all know that trees produce oxygen, and most know that trees trap carbon and sequester it in their trunks and leaves, but most don’t know that they also trap and sequester PM2.5. Particulate Matter 25 is the smallest and highest lung irritant produced from burning fossil fuels and is commonly found in urban areas where cars are found. Trees also filter both ozone and nitrogen oxides which are the common causes of man-made smog found near large cities and ports.
But trees do more than just help us clean the air:
- Because they absorb carbon and output oxygen, one large tree can create enough oxygen for four people per day!
- In summer, trees lower surface temperatures of cities reducing the need for air conditioning and the resulting energy demand. In winter, they reduce wind chill and the resulting heating energy costs.
- In Japan, forest bathing is prescribed by medical health professionals to help people who suffer from depression and anxiety. Hospital patients have been shown to recover from surgery more quickly when their hospital room offered a view of trees. They also had fewer complaints, less pain killers and left the hospital sooner.
- Scientific studies have shown that children who spend time in nature grow up to have better mental health as adults. While in school, children who spend time in nature gain improved concentration, creativity, improved mental health and it even helps kids who suffer from attention-deficit disorder.
- Trees provide food and revenue. Trees provide food and revenue. In low income or impoverished regions, a well tended food forest can provide a sustainable means of providing food and revenue for entire villages. In some areas, the planting of trees alters local weather in positive ways and provides shade for humans and animals. As the roots reach down into the soil, the change in structure has been shown to increase ground water. Leaves and other debris become compost for the soil and food for domestic animals, increasing ability to grow other food crops under and near to the canopy.
- In developed nations, property values in treed neighborhoods are higher than in those that don’t have trees. Homes on tree lined streets are quicker to resell than those without trees. People intuitively know and feel the draw of trees and are willing to pay more to live near them.
All these are great reasons to have tree cities, treed areas for people to spend time in, green walls or even a just few plants in your apartment. To me, the biggest hope comes from all of them together. Anything that produces oxygen and food, promotes better health, lifts people out of poverty and sequesters carbon is good with me. The fact that they are inexpensive, easy to plant and require very little maintenance makes them even better.
I read recently that that an organized and determined worldwide planting program could remove two-thirds of all emissions from human activities in the atmosphere today, a figure the scientists who wrote the report describe as “mind-blowing”. It will take time to plant the 1 trillion trees required to have this impact (10-30 years) so thankfully there are many organizations that are actively working on this plan. If you’d like to learn more and possibly support their efforts, please check out Trees.org, The Nature Conservancy or WeForest. There are many others working toward the common goal of large scale reforestation, so take a look at these or do an Ecosia search, there may be one near you.
Lastly, the search engine Ecosia is my new favourite and the place where I start when I search the Internet. They are a search engine with one very big difference; they use their profits to plant trees. There are completely transparent with their operations, carbon neutral and privacy conscious – they don’t sell your personal info. I start any internet searches on my notebook computer with them (you can add them as the default search page for your web browser) and I just downloaded their app for my smartphone.
In other top Happy Eco News stories, the European Union has begun action to put an end to funding of fossil fuel projects, Volkswagen embraces their roots – the car of the people will be making electric vehicles for millions not millionaires, one of the most densely populated places on earth, Hong Kong has been building vegetable gardens on skyscrapers and a short article on 9 plants to grow for your medicine cabinet.
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