How trees are revolutionizing cities around the world
What word comes to mind when you think of “cities”? Busy? And when you think of “forests”? Peaceful? What if cities could be something different?
To date, cities have largely been problematic for the environment. They occupy just two percent of the world’s land. However, they account for over 60 percent of global energy consumption, 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and 70 percent of global waste. Because of their historical impact on air quality, fresh water, natural resources and energy, the current growth of cities and megacities is a worrying trend. In 1990, there were 10 mega cities with more than 10 million inhabitants. In 2014, there were 28 mega cities. Today, over 50 percent of the global population lives in cities and by 2050 that number will rise to 70 percent.
But cities don’t have to be this way. New strategies and technologies are emerging every day to make cities a cleaner, safer, nicer place to live, both for the benefit of the environment and for the humans who make them their home.
How 7 cities are harnessing the power of urban trees:
1. Using parks to preserve biodiversity – In 2015, the City of Johannesburg in South Africa united all of its parks under one management in order to reduce confusion about areas of responsibility and ensure a set of common standards. This new agency’s goal is to build and maintain more parks with existing funds. Parks, trees and well-managed forests in and around cities help to counteract the impact that growing cities have on habitat loss. Instead, parks and forests maintain and increase biodiversity by providing habitats, food and protection for many plants and animals.
2. Boosting happiness with urban trees – In 2010, Vancouver, Canada adopted a bold strategy called “Green Vancouver,” an initiative to reduce the city’s environmental footprint. With ten goals, including green buildings, energy efficient transportation, zero waste, clean water and air, the city of Vancouver also highlighted the importance of access to nature. The strategy aimed to ensure that, by 2020, every person will live within a five-minute walk of a park, greenway or other green space, pushing the municipality to plant an additional 150 000 urban trees between 2010 and 2020. By 2014, the city had already planted 37 000 trees. Studies show that trees boost happiness and reduce stress levels. Incorporating them in cityscapes makes neighborhoods more liveable places and improves the well-being of its inhabitants. Read more…