The Next Green Revolution: Urban Reforestation, Farming, and Wildscaping

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posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 09:24 PM
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When thinking of a city one imagines busy crowds, concrete, tall buildings, and thoughroughfares choked with cars. Indeed, among things seldom associated with city life one may list forests, farms, and biodiversity. Yet although they may seem mutually exclusive, there is a new push to bring the wilderness to the city. With just a little creative civic planning and innovative industrial design; city dwellers can reduce their carbon footprint, raise the aesthetic tone of their town, mitigate the impact of poverty, and instill a sense of community pride and responsibility.




Bringing the forest to the concrete jungle is the first approach to be examined. Many cities have been divested of a great percentage of their precious trees over the course of the last few decades. Trees serve a key role in making a city livable: they provide a canopy which regulates temperature at street level, they cycle the Co2 from exhaust fumes, and they beautify an otherwise harsh cityscape. (8) There are many state-sponsored and non-profit run initiatives that provide trees and educational outreach to citizens wishing to improve their neighborhoods by planting trees. (3)

As well as processing out many airborne pollutants, trees sequester carbon dioxide from the air. In New York City, for instance, 1.35 million tons is stored and cycled through the city's trees, with over 42,000 tons of carbon removed annually from the atmosphere. (8)



Cities consist of impermeable surfaces that allow rainfall to wash unhindered into a town's storm water management system, occasionally resulting in flooding, and always at great expense. (6) By providing a buffer for rainfall, capturing water through their leaves and root systems that would otherwise go to a waste treatment plant, trees can save a town billions of dollars a year. It is estimated that a single tree can collect 760 gallons of water through its crown alone. (10) Again, in New York, trees capture 890.6 million gallons of rainwater every year. (8)
There are indirect environmental benefits, as well. The shade provided by an urban canopy results in reduced temperatures both at street level, and in buildings. Shadier buildings mean less use of air conditioners and centralized cooling, which in turn means less power usage. New York reports $27 million dollars in savings thanks to the shade provided by its trees. (8)

Although the environmental aspect of urban forestry is of key importance, trees in the city also have a less palpable, but still powerful effect on humans. Kathleen Wolf, MD, has made it her life's work to spread awareness about how trees in an urban environment translate to happier humans. According to her research, trees have the following effects on city dwellers:

* Workers with a "green view" reported higher job satisfaction, less work-related frustration, more zest for their work, and an improved sense of physical well-being.

*Roger Ulrich has found through his research on stress that exposure to a natural setting resulted in an instantaneous alleviation of the physical symptoms of stress, as well as a curious preventative effect on those about to undergo a stressful event. The amount of anxiety generated by a stressful event is lessened if a natural view is taken in prior to the event. (10)

*Drs Bill Sullivan and Francis Kuo found that neighborhoods with trees report less conflict, domestic violence and crime. (10)

*Retail sectors report better sales numbers in tree-scaped areas. (13)

Finally, trees are beautiful. On a street dominated by visual pollutants such as street lamps, power lines, and concrete building facades, trees can provide a leafy screen to help obscure unsightly city features. (11)
Many state sponsored initiatives and private non-profits are offering free trees to those who would like to participate in the reforestation movement. For instance, the city of Dallas provides free trees and guidance for reforestation on public property, but requires applicants to do a lot of the ground work and implementation. The conditions that must be met by applicants include the following:

"Where the trees will be planted, including a drawing or sketch (drawn to scale) with dimensions, how many trees and what species will be planted, how many participants will be supplied by the group on the delivery/planting day, how the trees will be unloaded from the delivery truck if weekday delivery, how the trees will be planted and irrigated on the planting day, how the group will maintain the trees (mulching, weeding, regular irrigation), include documented clearance from all utility companies for the proposed planting area (above and below ground utilities), and include a copy of the executed Momentum Agreement with the City of Dallas Department of Street Services, when necessary."(3)





posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 09:27 PM
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Another approach to greening up our cities lies in wildscaping. Very simply, wildscaping entails using native plant species to populate one's yard and public spaces in lieu of the more traditional grass. The eco benefits of wildscaping go hand in hand with urban forestry: water conservation, creating microclimates that can foster rich webs of life, and beautification. (1)



The line of reasoning behind gated community style policies that dictate a high ratio of lawn to plantings per front yard is that it creates a sense of uniformity. This adherence to homogeneity is also evident in suburban structures, and is intended to be reassuring; a visual stamp of normality and social cohesion. Most importantly, visual uniformity drives property values up. Indeed, the restrictive aesthetic policies of private communities are becoming legislated on the local scale in many cities. (5)

There was a case recently that illustrated the potential clash between civic authorities and home owners over what they may and may not grow on their property. In Montreal, a couple installed very attractive raised vegetable beds in lieu of lawn in their front yard. They shared their produce freely with their neighbors, none of whom objected to the garden, and many of whom touted it as a positive boon. (2)

Nevertheless, the garden violated a recently passed city code dictating that at least 60% of a front yard must consist of lawn, and the couple was forced to tear it up. (2) Others in the US have been fined hundreds of dollars in addition to submitting to the destruction of their gardens (in a couple of cases, actual law enforcement officers have done the pulling and digging) and must bear the financial onus of replacing them with turf. However, once the environmental costs are reckoned into the equation, we might find that uniformity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to how we use and manage our urban green spaces.



According to the EPA, “landscape irrigation is estimated to account for almost one-third of all residential water use, totaling more than 7 billion gallons per day.” Most of that water goes to keeping the grass green. However, maintaining a lush and visually pleasing lawn also requires pesticides and fertilizers in great quantities in order to look nice (which is virtually its only purpose, save recreation and pet use). This results in contaminated runoff, a phenomena aggravated by the fact that grass also fails to capture anywhere near the amount of rainfall that a diversely landscaped and thickly planted yard does. (7) At a time when fresh water is fast becoming a scarce and precious resource, can we really afford to perpetuate such a costly practice?



Anything is better than turf, but the ideal way to manage the green space is by using a wide variety of native species. The benefits are manifold:

*Many insect species flourish in these wildscaped microclimates, and they provide shelter for wildlife that would otherwise be displaced by urban expansion.

*Native species are hardier and better adapted to their climate, leading to a reduction in blight and other plant diseases.

*Wildscaping offers a good solution to diminishing populations of key species in the food web.
Using plants native to the region can impart a deeper sense of “place” and identity to its inhabitants, and create a different sort of aesthetic unification. (12)

Although grass lawns are important for providing a place for pets and children to play, those who advocate wildscaping aver that a 40% grass to 60% native species is a good ratio to shoot for, and could cut outdoor water consumption by as much as 50%. Most state parks websites offer a list of native plant species suitable for wildscaping, as well as helpful tips for cultivation. (1)

It is important to recognize the role of the individual in conservation, and how we can make a difference with how we utilize our own patch of green space. As Dr. Douglas W. Tallamy of the University of Delaware says, “Unless we modify the places we live, work, and play to meet not only our own needs but the needs of other species as well; nearly all species of wildlife native to the United States will disappear forever. This is not speculation. It is a prediction backed by decades of research.”(1)




posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 09:32 PM
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reply to post by Eidolon23
 


Awesome! Loved it, thanks for posting.

I have often felt there is a lot of wasted space we could give back. And why not?



posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 09:34 PM
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Community gardens are popping up like flowers all over the nation. In cities with limited access to garden space, a community garden provides a much needed source of food and allows citizens to be more deeply invested in their neighborhoods and on better terms with their neighbors. More often than not, these little green oases in the concrete jungle offer a place for informal gatherings, barb queues, and sharing of all kinds; from seeds to plants to produce to knowledge.

The benefits of investing in urban farming and self-sufficient means of food production are manifold:

*It helps families provide for their own needs with good quality produce at a reduced expense, also potentially becoming a source of income or trade goods, if surplus is grown.

*It offers local markets a better selection of nutrient rich product at more competitive prices.

*Revitalization of local economies in the form of urban food markets, street food and food processing

*Provides a much needed sense of direct participation in our own food production and the resultant sense of civic and environmental responsibility.



The value offered by community gardens is becoming more widely recognized, and has gained the support of local government and citizens alike. In 1997, New York mayor Rudy Giuliani attempted to appropriate 113 community gardens which were valued as hot real estate, but was quickly shut down by thousands of city residents who vociferously protested the move. Subsequently, the city council passed a resolution opposing the sale. Still, there was much wrangling until a good compromise was reached when a private non-profit purchased the land at a reduced cost with the intent to perpetuate its present use.



There are those who, in their quest for urban revitalization through gardening, circumvent local statutes and property laws alike. These are the botanical anarchists out there at the forefront of a worldwide movement; appropriating waste lots and abandoned sites, medians and scrub lands, public and private property for their own purposes. These guerilla gardeners employ techniques like seed bombing (precisely what it sounds like; one simply scatters seed over a patch of ground and lets nature take its course), placing container plants on street corners, revamping neglected public places with colorful bulbs, and planting food gardens on private waste lots.



The definition of a Guerilla Gardener, according to Richard Reynolds, is simple: it is "the illicit cultivation of someone else's land". The recognition of underuse and wasted potential in privately owned soil is something these vigilante gardeners have and which the hardened city dweller may fail to see. They are taking direct responsibility for the quality of their immediate environment in a way that is startling and heartening. There is an ethos of ownership and community pride that underlies this movement and makes the circumvention of the law if not admirable, then at least understandable. (9)

As urban citizens, we stand at an extraordinary crossroads. As our cities’ population continue to boom, as the drain from rural areas and former agricultural centers continues, as deforestation continues unabated around the world; we are presented with the opportunity to not only change how we live, but to improve the quality of life for every species we share our environment with. We can be stewards, farmers and conservationists in our own homes, our own neighborhoods, and by extension, our megacities. We can care for and be personally vested in our habitats, and we can carry that forward into subsequent generations.

Taking the need to taper our resource consumption and waste output as the most pressing need to be met through these approaches, one can still point out that there is a very human benefit. We will cultivate citizens who love and care for where they live, who have a sense of identity intimately linked to the space they occupy, and who lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

1.www.dnr.state.md.us...
2.www2.ca.uky.edu...
3.www.dallascityhall.com...
4.urbanomnibus.net...
5.www.sciencedirect.com...
6.vegnews.com...
7. William H. Whyte: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces - The Street Corner
8.Rethinking the Informal City: Critical Perspectives from Latin America
By Felipe Hernández
9.www.fao.org...
10. www.americanforests.org...



posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 09:45 PM
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Originally posted by ABNARTY
reply to post by Eidolon23
 


Awesome! Loved it, thanks for posting.

I have often felt there is a lot of wasted space we could give back. And why not?


My pleasure.


This is a great site for those interested in the gentle reclamation of our urban environment through proactive gardening.

www.guerrillagardening.org...



posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 10:03 PM
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Good post, important issue.

I would hope that cities 50 years from now hold little resemblance to what we see now. A more pleasing environment can reduce depression and crime. This is one of many areas of reform badly needed in crowded areas.



posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 10:15 PM
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reply to post by PatrickGarrow17
 


I could not agree more.

You look around you, you like what you see, you know that the good actions of your neighbors contributed to that feeling of pride... you're a lot less likely to want to hurt or rip them off.



posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 11:03 PM
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Yes. And plants can purify septic, and cleanse water, heal the atmosphere, produce oxygen, change climate and bring back depleted areas.

Its a vision very much of what is needed. And a beautiful thread. Thank you.



posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 11:07 PM
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very refreshing article. gotta give you a star. I love the trees and the forest. I would prefer those who don't know and respect the forest to stay in their cities. Yes put the trees and parks there and leave the kids climb the trees to get closer to nature.



posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 11:14 PM
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reply to post by Unity_99
 


Yes! The water treatment angle is so very exciting. I live near UVM, and have had the pleasure of visiting the Living Machine (also known as the Eco-Machine) recently installed by grad students in the Aiken building.




An Eco-Machine™, can be a tank based system traditionally housed within a greenhouse or a combination of exterior constructed wetlands with Aquatic Cells inside of a greenhouse . The system often includes an anaerobic pre-treatment component, flow equalization, aerobic tanks as the primary treatment approach followed by a final polishing step, either utilizing Ecological Fluidized Beds or a small constructed wetland. The size requirements are entirely dependent on the waste flow, usually determined during our preliminary engineering phase and site visit. The Eco-Machine™ is a beautiful water garden that can be designed to provide advanced treatment. The Eco-Machine functions similarly to a facultative pond with both aerobic and anoxic treatment zones, only instead of a body of water, the process occurs within individual tanks, creating independent treatment zones.

A robust ecosystem is created in the Eco-Machine between the plants, microbial species and distinct treatment zones. Within the Eco-Machine, all the major groups of life are represented, including microscopic algae, fungi, bacteria, protozoa, and zooplankton, on upward to snails, clams, and fishes. Higher plants, including shrubs and trees, are grown on adjustable industrial strength fiberglass racks suspended within the system. The result is an efficient and refined wastewater treatment system that is capable of achieving high quality water without the need for hazardous chemicals.

toddecological.com...


They're totally feasible for homeowners to install, as well.




pbogdonoff.home.igc.org...

edit on 14-9-2012 by Eidolon23 because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 11:26 PM
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Wow! Superlative thread, positive message.
This is so my Pop:


There was a case recently that illustrated the potential clash between civic authorities and home owners over what they may and may not grow on their property. In Montreal, a couple installed very attractive raised vegetable beds in lieu of lawn in their front yard. They shared their produce freely with their neighbors, none of whom objected to the garden, and many of whom touted it as a positive boon.

He WILL grow it in the front yard and share it.
I love that about him. He's left every property he's ever been at more beautiful and more green. I got a little of it in me, too.

Now that I'm small-community mountain living, it's already pretty sweet 'round these parts...but I do know a place that needs some wildscaping.



posted on Sep, 14 2012 @ 11:34 PM
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reply to post by The GUT
 


My grandmother and mother passed their love of gardening on to me.
Your pop sounds like a fantastic guy. That's another aspect of gardening that can be potentially very rewarding: cross-generational activities at a time when the generational divides have never been deeper.



If you encourage a child's love of growing things, you have given them a tremendous gift.



posted on Sep, 15 2012 @ 08:45 AM
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I heard about it before and i find it very hopefull. I would love to see the world become a more natural place for us humans. I think it would reconnect us with our enviroment, and maybe even bring some sence of harmony.
And there are some great methods that are relatively easy to work with, i.e. vertical gardening brings so many options even in small spaces. And since we are inventive as a species, many more solutions will hopefully folow.
I hope it is a trend that shapes the world into a better place.

Thanks for sharing!



posted on Sep, 15 2012 @ 09:01 AM
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Wonderful thread!

I too would love to see this new trend.

As a little boy I used to love drawing overhead maps of imaginary cites (still do, I'll spend half a day drawing one for fun, sorta like playing that game civilization but on paper) One thing I always would include were urban plant scapes, parks, and even urban farming. I remember as a boy some of my drawings insisted on all of the streets (well most of the larger ones with bigger sidewalks) to instead of being lined with basic trees like laurels to be lined with fruit trees.

I know the fruit could make a mess, but set up some sort of city service where they go and harvest the fruit and sell it at local markets or something. Rotate the types of fruits you plant so that something in your neighborhood is always in season. like say for this block apples are planted on the south side of the street and them on the other side of the street say plums that harvest at a different time of year.



posted on Sep, 15 2012 @ 09:05 AM
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reply to post by Merijn
 




Vertical gardening! Thank you, I'm so glad you brought it up. A lot of forward thinking architects and urban planners are looking at ways to utilize all the vertical space provided by multi-story buildings. From clip-on scaffolding that can transform entire skyscraper faces into a lush (and energy conserving) garden, to multi-story greenhouses, to entire forests layered floor by floor.

Here's a very ambitious concept being designed for Chongqing's city center.



And, for those living in apartments with limited space, vertical gardening provides an ideal way to grow tasty edibles and lovely ornamentals in the comfort of home.



More on vertical gardening:

inhabitat.com...
www.wired.co.uk...
www.environmentalgraffiti.com...



posted on Sep, 15 2012 @ 09:15 AM
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Originally posted by BASSPLYR
I know the fruit could make a mess, but set up some sort of city service where they go and harvest the fruit and sell it at local markets or something. Rotate the types of fruits you plant so that something in your neighborhood is always in season. like say for this block apples are planted on the south side of the street and them on the other side of the street say plums that harvest at a different time of year.


That's such a great idea. There have been a few efforts to have edible gardens installed in parks and city centers. The main concern put forth is the idea that citizens might abuse the commons: one person will take too much and not leave enough for others to enjoy.

But wherever the idea has been implemented, grazing is moderate, most people just picking a few berries to nibble on as they pass by. It hits your hunter-gatherer spot, which people really seem to enjoy.

And besides, as one urban designer noted (I paraphrase here): "If someone is going to take more than their share, they probably need it."



posted on Sep, 15 2012 @ 11:39 AM
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Im fairly new to gardening,

But being the nerd that I am I went the Hightech route experimenting with Aquaponics, and Hydroponics.

Its amazing what you can grow in such a small space and the yields you get when you use essentially a miniaturized version of natures natural process (aquaponics)

I haven't set up my aquaponics garden at my new place, I plan to make a thread about it once I do, its something I think everyone should be doing in their back yard.

There really is no reason not to with the cost of food rising and such.
edit on 15-9-2012 by benrl because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 15 2012 @ 02:35 PM
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Amazing thread!! Thank you.

I am a big lover of nature and I think that bringing nature back into the cities will do us allot of good.
This is something that needs to be planned from the beginning, when drawing up new housing, public space and neighborhoods in general.

The video below is also amazing and presented by Stephen Ritz. A man filled with so much positive energy that he could literally explode from it.
He and his students grows food in South Bronx, and they also build the structures for it.
I recommend everyone to watch it.

The work of Stephen Ritz provides pretty good proof that a green environment makes people more happy

We should all start at our own homes and then take it from there.
Personally I grow vegetables, herbs and just generally beautiful plants on my balcony.





A whirlwind of energy and ideas, Stephen Ritz is a teacher in New York's tough South Bronx, where he and his kids grow lush gardens for food, greenery -- and jobs. Just try to keep up with this New York treasure as he spins through the many, many ways there are to grow hope in a neighborhood many have written off, or in your own. (Filmed at TEDxManhattan.)
edit on 15-9-2012 by LiberalSceptic because: (no reason given)
edit on 15-9-2012 by LiberalSceptic because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 15 2012 @ 02:58 PM
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reply to post by benrl
 


Great to hear that you have started with gardening as well, it is never to late to begin with!

I think that allot of people here on ATS would appreciate some inspiration and a good guide to follow, so please when you have the time, make a thread of your green endeavours.



posted on Sep, 15 2012 @ 03:23 PM
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reply to post by LiberalSceptic
 


That TED talk was outstanding.
Triple the bottom line, indeed!

People are doing some pretty rad stuff w/ salvaged materials and Aquaponics.




This is my favorite idea (clawfoot tub garden, anyone?):






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