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.
It is not enough to put less carbon into the atmosphere. We have to take carbon out. There are a number of ways of doing this and none of the solutions are about technology. We need to restore peatbogs and proper grassland where those are the natural habitats for an area. Both store carbon. For everything else, there’s trees.
We need to put back hedges and copses. We need to extend existing woodlands and plant new ones. We need trees in urban spaces. Any scrappy bit of unloved grass needs trees on it as a matter of some urgency. Establishing woodlands is a complicated business and doing it well requires knowledge of both trees and the land you are working with. When it comes to urban tree planting, there’s not a lot you can get wrong. More trees are good, and any space where a tree can thrive it’s worth putting trees in. Trees in urban spaces don’t just suck up carbon – they keep us cool which in turn will reduce our energy needs and help us cut carbon.
If you want to take action to help fight climate change and protect life on Earth, plant a tree. If you own land – even a small garden – think about what you can grow in it. A miniature fruit tree is always worth a thought. A small tree is so much better than no tree.
If you can’t plant trees yourself, see who can and support them. See what your local nature groups are doing, and what your local council may be up for. If you’ve got a local Transition Network, talk to them about it. Perhaps your local school, or hospital, or community centre has some space where trees could be planted? And again, trees in such places do so much good above and beyond their ability to take up carbon.
I’m not in a position to plant trees – I have no space of my own where I could do that. I’m going to give money to a local charity who are planning to plant trees as soon as they’ve secured land. They’re an excellent charity and I first met them planting trees on the side of the road. They’ve also got some plans afoot to plant shrubs and wildflowers – it’s all good.
If you want to take positive action quickly to help make a difference, plant trees. Give money to groups who are planting trees. Ask your local council to plant trees.
You may also want to get involved with this project from The Woodland Trust – a scheme to get a million people each planting a tree on the 30th of November.
This blog is inspired by the principles of the Tree Charter – find out more about it and how to get involved, here – https://treecharter.uk/
There’s no doubt about it that time with trees improves our mental health. They offer a great deal of good to our bodies as well – cleaning air, cooling urban environments and rural ones alike, holding moisture in the soil. Having trees makes for good human habitat. They protect us from excess sun and thus from skin cancer.
Re-greening a landscape is a reliable way of giving people hope. A dead, dry landscape doesn’t support life and offers humans nothing – except the drama of exposed soil. A green landscape can feed and shelter us, give us respite from the weather and blesses us with beauty. In most parts of the world, planting trees is the way to overcome environmental degradation. We have to plant trees and protect the trees we’ve got, and find ways of living on the land that doesn’t strip life back to the soil.
Humans don’t thrive in sterile environments – be that an urban sprawl, or a landscape we’ve ravaged. We are kinder to each other when we live alongside trees. We thrive in gentler, leafier landscapes. Agriculture works better in landscapes that aren’t denuded of trees and shrubs – the soil stays put in heavy rains and insects are present for pollination. If we only thought of trees in terms of how much use they provide to humans, we should be planting trees everywhere we can, with great enthusiasm.
Of course when we plant trees, we benefit more than ourselves. We benefit every creature for whom trees are a habitat. We can restore ecosystems and bring back diversity of life. If there’s any pockets left of an eco system, we can give it a fighting chance by expanding the trees and connecting up the surviving landscapes.
Tree planting gives us the best hope of reducing the impact of climate change, and surviving the changes it will make.
The best time for planting trees is when they don’t have any leaves on them – it’s less disturbing to the tree and they’ll likely do better as a consequence. The downside of this is that tree planting is a cold business and the soil may be very wet or very frozen so it can be dirty and hard work. Still, it’s absolutely worth it if you can manage it.
Tree planting used to be part of my seasonal activity, and it was something I did as part of my Pagan practice. I believe in trees – which isn’t a difficult thing to do. Trees take up carbon, clean our air, provide habitats for insects, birds, mammals and reptiles. They’re good for human mental health, and I’ve run into evidence to suggest we’re better people when we have trees around us. We’re less violent in the company of trees. That trees are a force for good doesn’t take much belief at all.
We need more trees. In terms of action against climate change and a way of dealing with flooding, they’re an excellent option. Planting trees is a way of being part of the solution. It’s a real and uncomplicated action you can take to help tackle the problems we face. It makes a difference wherever you do it.
If you’re in the UK, The Woodland Trust has free tree planting packs for schools and communities, there’s other options too for land owners, or you can buy tree packs or single trees. Wander this way to learn more http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/
I’m hoping to get back to tree planting next year. I have a plan. It pays to start thinking about it well ahead of time because if you don’t have land of your own, you need to find somewhere you can plant, which takes time. You’ll need to talk to people, and you may have to educate them, or persuade them. You may need to do some research about the best kinds of trees to plant in the spaces available to you. You may need more people involved. Start thinking now, and you’ll have a much better shot at planting trees next year.
Photo from The Woodland Trust – Community Tree Pack. Tree Saplings, Tree Tubes and Wooden Stakes on Pallet. Photo by: WTML