There are plans to circle Madrid with a massive forest. Surrounding the city with trees would help fight climate chaos, and would have a cooling effect – cities are normally heat islands. It’s an excellent plan with the potential to help on many levels. I feel strongly that urban tree planting should be a serious consideration worldwide.
Planting trees in urban spaces means we aren’t taking farmland out of production and we aren’t messing up existing ecosystems. Unconsidered tree planting isn’t usually a good thing. For tree planting to be effective they have to survive. Turning otherwise barren urban spaces green by planting trees is a good choice environmentally.
Urban trees provide wildlife corridors. They create shade, which can reduce human energy use. Trees help with noise and air pollution, they help slow falling rain and reduce flooding. Meanwhile, they take up carbon from the air. We also know that trees improve people – we have better mental health when we have green spaces, we’re less likely to commit crimes or to be violent.
If people have to travel to access green space for relaxation, exercise and mental health, that travelling puts more pressure on the planet. If we can turn our cities green, or put greenbelts around them – especially if we can re-purpose derelict industrial sites when we do that – we can cut the need for travel, which will also help.
When it comes to wild and natural forests, there is much to be said for allowing natural regeneration and expansion where possible. But, in urban spaces we have nothing to lose and almost anything we do to introduce more plant matter is likely to bring benefits.
Imagine that fifteen minute city where you mostly walk or cycle, or use electronic mobility devices, and you do so surrounded by trees. Instead of the massive amount of land given over to parking spaces, we could have so many pockets of life and vitality, we could add so much beauty to our lives and we could fight climate change while we do it.