Research shows that stress levels, heart rate, muscle tension, asthma rates, and blood pressure all decrease in the presence of trees. Trees also trap pollution, absorb auto emissions, and cool down the temperature. However, urban forests are shrinking all over the US – between 2009~2014, 36M urban trees disappeared.
A report by Popular Science shows how Baltimore, the city that served as the gritty background for The Wire, is bucking the trend.
Baltimore’s urban forests are growing by more than 5,000 trees per year, largely in the traditionally redlined east and west Baltimore.
Baltimore’s grassroots urban foresting efforts began in the 80s with non-profits like Parks & People Foundation. In 1993, Federal govt recognized their work and awarded the city $2.5M to start Revitalizing Baltimore which aimed to plant more than 17,000 trees over a decade. The program quickly built an inclusive forestry model that harnesses efforts from all stakeholders – city hall, non-profits, and local businesses and went on to pass on its model to other towns. In 2006, TreeBaltimore, the city’s official planting agency was born. The agency, dedicated to urban forest expansion via collaboration with local communities and residents, was a turning point in the city’s urban forest growth.
Baltimore’s forestry experts also created a free software called i-Tree, which calculates the economic value of urban forests’ role in pollution removal, carbon trapping, and energy use reduction. i-Tree data was used for NYC’s 2007 plan to invest $400M to plant more than 1M trees. TreeBaltimore now aims to increase the city’s total canopy from 28% to 40% by 2037.
1 billion acres at risk of wildfire
When we zoom out, the picture becomes way grimmer – the chief of the U.S. Forest Service last week warned that 1 billion acres of land across America are at risk of wildfire. A recent study revealed that global warming was the cause of half of all wildfires in the Western US between 1984 and 2015.
We got room for more trees
There’s still hope, though. Earlier this year, ETH Zurich, a Swiss university, published a study which said that we have enough room in existing parks, forests, and abandoned land (not even counting urban and agricultural land) to plant 1.2 trillion trees – which would completely wipe out a decade of CO2 emissions.