Urban trees for magical transformation

Like many Pagans, I do not in fact live in the wilderness. Most of us are urban, which makes the idea of nature as something away from humans rather awkward. How can you celebrate nature, commune with it and base your spirituality around it if nature is somewhere else? There can be a temptation to work with ideas about nature rather than direct experience. For me, one of the things that makes Paganism so good is that we don’t have to rely on what we can imagine, but can instead have that direct, first hand experience of the living world.

Urban trees can be a great way of experiencing non-human entities on a daily basis. It helps that they tend to stay put so can be visited reliably. Trees are good for people in all kinds of ways. I’ve just been sent some really interesting stuff from The Woodland Trust about how urban trees impact on us, so I thought I’d share some of that. I think there’s a lot to take on here about what it means to be in contact with trees, even in apparently unpromising environments.

I think it’s widely known that trees reduce air and noise pollution, and that a single mature tree can release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two people. Access to any kind of green space encourages good mental health and physical activity. Urban trees help slow rainfall, and also reduce temperatures in hot weather – overheating can be a killer. Some of the impacts The Woodland Trust are reporting were more surprising, though.

Public housing residents with nearby trees and natural landscapes reported 25% fewer acts of domestic aggression and violence. I think this is a staggering figure. Humans without trees are not as functional. Further, children exposed to nature score higher on concentration and self-discipline; improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills, doing better in reading, writing, maths, science and social studies, are better at working in teams, and show improved behaviour overall. We are better people when we have trees.

One piece of tree data I found surprising is that street trees may improve driving safety. One study found a 46% decrease in crash rates across urban arterial and highway sites after landscape improvements were made and street trees were planted. Clearly, trees do not improve visibility for drivers, but they do break up the monotony, perhaps encouraging drivers to be more aware of what’s changing around them. Perhaps trees alongside roads are just calming in the way trees are other places.

I started supporting The Woodland Trust years ago because it seemed like a good expression of being a Druid, and a good way to contribute to the wellbeing of landscape and that which dwells in it. The challenges facing humans are so vast right now, so overwhelming that it can feel impossible to know where to start responding. It can feel like one person’s small difference is hardly worth making, and that can render us powerless.

We are better and healthier people when we have trees. We are less likely to kill each other. If children have better reasoning and observational skills when exposed to nature, it seems reasonable to assume that adults will too. Which means that if we want to change the people around us, helping them to be kinder, more reflective and able to make better choices, one of the ways we can do that is with tree planting. It’s a lot less emotionally exhausting than trying to reason with the unreasonable as well. Working to develop urban green spaces might move us towards answers to far more complicated problems. Trees have a magic of their own, and when people experience trees, they can change simply because of that.

Some sources –

Kuo, F.E., and W.C. Sullivan. 2001. Aggression and Violence in the Inner City: Effects of Environment Via Mental Fatigue. Environment and Behavior 33, 4:543-571. Facts reported by the University of Washington http://depts.washington.edu/hhwb/Thm_Crime.html

Sigman, A. (2007) Agricultural Literacy: Giving concrete children food for thought www.face-online.org.uk/resources/news/Agricultural%20Literacy.pdf

Donovan et al, 2013, The Relationship Between Trees and Human Health: Evidence from the Spread of the Emerald Ash Borer https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379712008045

3 Naderi, J.R. 2003. Landscape Design in the Clear Zone: Effect of Landscape Variables on Pedestrian Health and Driver Safety. Transportation Research Record 1851:119-130.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Urban trees for magical transformation

  • Eliza Ayres

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal and commented:
    Excellent article. I know that when I lived in a small town, I often visited its large 100+-year-old park so I could walk among the gigantic sycamores, oaks, cottonwoods, Spruce and Firs, and many others. Yes, trees aid and assist humanity to live better. Find a way to add trees to your city or town or personal garden space.

  • eberis

    kind of I’m a 4th Level druid of green acquiren with a comment on why not to allow Witchcraft in Jesuit druid … which is confusing because the telltale of witchcraft is ouija , portending , kaballah , and … scrying . I don’t support :-/ portension of the technical term : Tm network non~CRMinit2 and I say unOuija.NET on dark net2 will get WitchVox2 in terms of using incense without … .. . cohosh , and OM nag champa and my favorite candle , Prosperity . I like super stick nag champa but I have a reiki disorder of sorcery recovery setting it to Odor Net of the problem I had with Loud Net in a Faith Based Community Initiative in terms of simply ://: DruidWalk across the community to the shop keep . She’s got coffee and a meet n greet is what I want but the ‘chip’ wiccan£ keeps saying on a kind of augmented .. not to cast in public .. which confuses me about the Old Wic who knows the AlterNet of a redtail dragon , but I like the yellow dragon of spark.dim and getting online to phasing out grid computing . I’m a ‘Nature’ undot net2 Teacher but the class on HAARP won’t sign on magic class .. .. so I had a problem with ‘ranting’ at junior philosophy learning to communicate . Anyway , sorcery recovery … and the government shutdown init 2 of open.gov initiative 2 . Anything else ?? green acquireñ Manna n Games eco city green future . Thanks , hooray .

  • maenosen

    I think some people get hung up on the idea of nature being some vast wilderness, with grass and/or trees as far as the eye can see. To thos people I say stop and look around them. The “weeds” with their tenacity, the spider webs on the street light, the city starlings an pigeons. You can find nature even in the most urban of areas.

  • krakatoa

    Thank you very much for your inspiring article, Nimue. I started thinking of the trees I use to visit in the city I am living in and wrote down some thought (German language)
    Thank you for your blog!

  • Juliet Wilson

    Urban trees are so important and it’s so sad when local councils like Sheffield and to a lesser extent Edinburgh cut down trees for no real good reason


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