Guest Voices: Tree Canopy in Urban Areas

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Wheat Row in D.C.’s own Southwest Waterfront neighborhood (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

This week, we are excited to feature a post from Mark Buscaino, the Executive Director of Casey Trees. Casey Trees has generously partnered with the National Museum of African Art during the Earth Matters show to help extend its reach into community and environmental action in the heart of D.C.

A recent landmark study showed that tree canopy for 20 major U.S. cities has declined – 2% in 10 years, with an equal 2% increase in impervious cover (roofs, roads, sidewalks, etc.). While cities need roads and structures that eliminate space for trees and open space, the question researchers are trying to answer is: Is an environment dominated by asphalt and concrete detrimental to our health?

In the 1840s, Adam Jackson Downing, the father of New York City’s famous Central Park, spoke and wrote about the rejuvenating effects of trees and nature.  This concept is perhaps best understood in New York when you walk from the hustle and bustle of the city’s urban canyons into Central Park’s trees and woods.  You can feel the reduction in tension almost immediately, and most of us have experienced something similar in other situations and urban areas.

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Southwest corner of Central Park, Looking East, New York City (photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

But more than just a “feeling,” recent research has supported this view.  Trees reduce human stress levels, promote healing in hospital patients, improve test scores in students, reduce street crime, and a host of other benefits.  They also increase real estate values and increase business activity (customer “drop-ins”) – and no wonder.  Wouldn’t you rather stroll on a city street with a welcoming canopy of trees overhead instead of on a barren concrete slab exposed to the elements?

While much of this sounds like common sense, we often don’t listen to our senses, which is probably why tree canopy in cities nationwide continues to decline. In Washington, DC, the tree canopy has gone from 50% in 1950 to 36% today, but actions are being taken to reverse the trend. Washington, DC, has a Sustainability Plan and a goal to increase its canopy to 40% in 20 years, and we plant more trees per capita in DC than many cities.

So, when you think about cities next time, remember that 85% of all the U.S. population lives in them – 85%.  How can we make them productive, healthy and safe for everyone?

At Casey Trees we take the common sense view – count the trees in!

Earth Matters explores the idea that the Earth matters to each of us, even if it looks like and means very different things to different people. Casey Trees works specifically in urban areas to show the way that the Earth matters to each and every one of us – watch the video below to find out a bit more about their projects, and don’t forget to head over to CaseyTrees.org to find out how you can get involved!

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2 thoughts on “Guest Voices: Tree Canopy in Urban Areas

  1. Pingback: Guest Voices: Tree Canopy in Urban Areas | Urba...

  2. Pingback: Treelines – Week of May 13, 2013 - Casey Trees

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