posted April 20, 2010
We humans are unstoppable. We are a building species. As we populate every inch of the planet, we have come to realize that to survive, we must adapt to the environment where we live. Too often we have tried to overpower nature; the results being that humans can no longer inhabit some places on this earth due solely to the actions of humans. Living among waste (water and air pollution) will certainly affect the overall health of the individuals in any society.
Here in Tennessee, we live in the forest. Despite pollen counts that may send allergy sufferers to the doctor, living among trees has uncountable psychological and emotional benefits to our well being as individuals and as a society. However, it is a tree’s bio-mechanical processes that help make living on this planet possible. Trees take in, process and emit the air we breathe. That makes them filters. There can be up to a 60% reduction in street level particulates with trees. In one urban park, the tree cover was found to remove 48lbs. of particulates, 9 lbs. of nitrogen dioxide, 6 lbs. of sulfur dioxide & 2 lbs. of carbon monoxide every day ($136 per day value based on modern pollution control technology) (Dr. Kim D. Coder; University of Georgia, October, 1996 “Identified Benefits of Community Trees and Forests").
But that’s not all. Many studies have been done that prove the mitigation of the “heat island” affect in metropolitan areas containing more trees. From Atlanta to New York to San Francisco, the research shows that stabilized temperatures reduce the amount of energy spent to heat and cool any structure. By providing shade in summer and wind breaks in the winter, trees are one of the most efficient ways to help stabilize temperatures, reducing energy consumption – no matter what the energy source. Why are they so efficient? With a little planning and comparatively low investment, maintaining a healthy urban forest provides energy savings far exceeding the costs. When combined with development designs that include water absorbing green spaces, storm water management costs can also be dramatically reduced.
This information is not new, but the situation is. The Chattanooga City Council has asked citizens and employees to review and revise our landscape and development ordinances. There are experienced, educated people working on it. Hamilton County may be looking forward to unrestrained building and development. Most of the area that gets covered with structures (from buildings to parking lots) will benefit from the effects of sustainable development and a healthy urban forest. Everything we do, from manufacturing to cooking at home, has an affect on the environment. The more energy wasting structures we erect or maintain, the more pollutants we allow to permeate our air and water, the higher the concentration of those pollutants nature will have to absorb. There is only so much biomass per tree – they can only absorb so much.
Consider now, what we get when we use everything we know about energy conservation and energy saving technology in the building trades (LEED); utilize renewable, minimally polluting energy production (wind, solar, thermal); and implement what we know about natural resource conservation (sustainable development laws). We are rewarded with cleaner air, cleaner water and lower energy costs. We know how to do these things. We just need the political will to recognize that we can no longer afford to live the lifestyle of consume and waste – destroy and rebuild.
This has to happen at the local level. Take the initiative. Contact your local elected official (City Council, County Commissioner) and tell them that you value where you live and they should act accordingly.
Jonathan D. Nessle
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I wholeheartedly agree that Chattanooga will be a better place with an increase of trees withing the downtown area. I might also suggest that if you too are supportive of this idea that you take a look at our the Take Root initiative. It has already planted hundreds of tree’s in the area.