Re: Green infrastructure — trees
For David Suzuki to suggest that our country invest infrastructure monies in trees is good for climate and urban health is distorting and manipulating some basic truths.
It is insulting to read the suggestion that “we often take trees and green spaces for granted”. Really? That must be a big city thing. I sincerely doubt that the average citizen in the Cowichan Valley would ever take trees for granted.
But let’s focus on some “true” information that most folks likely would not think about and certainly wasn’t mentioned by Suzuki. Most municipalities take great care to provide a pleasing natural environment (greening and green spaces) within their urban areas; the nature of the Suzuki article suggests that our municipalities are not doing enough and should do more. I would sincerely disagree. As our municipality staff know all too well, landscape planning and managing green spaces, parks and related areas is a complex issue that requires a careful balance between provision of services, cost management and the balance of priorities.
To suggest that somehow planting more trees will somehow help climate change is very questionable. Extensive forest areas can be arguably great for our environment but one might question how trees along a sidewalk somehow have the same impact. Firstly for a variety of good reasons, most plantings within municipalities are deciduous trees. Come October through April (here on the coast), six or even seven months of the year trees are dormant and are contributing basically nothing to the carbon cycle and nothing toward climate change (the same is also true for coniferous species).
Secondly, all those leaves (needles) that drop off, clogging our gutters and ditches, sidewalks, roadways etc. are dying and decaying carbon! Did you know that the natural decay of organic carbon contributes more than 90 per cent of the yearly carbon dioxide released into the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans? One could argue then that there is very little carbon neutralizing benefit from urban trees. Well yes, the tree trunk is also an accumulation of carbon, which our municipality must spend time, money and trimming, cleaning up after, watering, cutting down, replacing with new trees.
Thirdly, intuitively, one can easily figure that all the energy (read carbon contributing), gases leaf blowers, private and municipality street cleaners and disposal equipment (carbon consumption) used to keep our curbing, water catchments clean or open for proper drainage would far remove any benefit that had accrued by planting the urban tree in the first place.
Fourthly, to suggest that somehow this new green environment would somehow protect city buildings and infrastructure from damaging storms is highly questionable, given the number of insurance claims associated with cars, windows, house roofs, downed power lines that are damaged each year by trees.
Further, we have all seen the damage that tree roots can cause to sidewalks, roadways and other infrastructure. Think of all that energy and carbon consumption required to fix and repair this infrastructure by having large amounts of urban trees would again suggest that the carbon production in fixing also significantly offsets the “green” benefits associated with planting the trees in the first place.
Quite simply the “greening” of a municipality has many merits, we do not need the Suzuki to smugly tell us why. But Suzuki’s proposal is far overblown and distorted toward an unreasonable agenda (proposal) of taking valuable infrastructure monies to support an “updated” definition of infrastructure to include trees and other so called “greening” ideas.