Urban life can be an insulated existence, consisting of circling between one temperature-controlled space after another. But cities are not invulnerable to climatic changes. Indeed, when it comes to heat, they can fare worse. They are also far from homogenous. Counter to the images of “domed cities” that Buckminster Fuller proposed for Manhattan in the 1960s and that Dubai is touted to be pursuing, cities do not have equally distributed temperatures. Even if they do, the risk those temperatures represent are far from equally perceived or experienced.
Australians typically pride themselves on being pretty sanguine about the nation’s extreme weather, at least when it comes to spectacular events like Dorothea Mackellar-esque “flooding rains” or disasters playing out elsewhere on our vast continent. But this week even our assumed role as the world’s most variable climate took a turn for the worse, as Australia hosted the planet’s 15 hottest sites. Many of these extreme temperatures were recorded inland in small settlements. Port Augusta, for example, with 15,000 residents, was number two on the list at 49C. Nonetheless, the heat wave rolled across the continent affecting major urban settlements such as Canberra and Western Sydney.
In 2001 there were 1.3bn trees in England. That’s 25 for every person in the country, the highest numbers since the first world war. One article predictedthat in 2020 there would be more trees in England than in 1086, when 15% of the country was cloaked in woodland. Part of the reason for this buoyant outlook was the country’s response to the great storm of 1987. We mourned for our ancient yews and the beeches of Chanctonbury Ring. Petitions were drafted, many thousands of saplings were planted. We rebuilt our woods with solemn and impassioned dedication.
The predictions will not fall short. Across the UK, the number of trees has sharply increased. In 2015 there were 3bn trees, the equivalent of 47, a sizeable copse, for every person, around twice as many as in 2001. These statistics might evoke a bosky eden where the wild wood is reclaiming the land, yet recent years have also seen a return of large-scale felling, with Network Rail’s plans to cut down millions more trees the latest example.
Network Rail’s view of trees is understandable. Leaves on the line can cause trains to overshoot stations, and branches and entire trees falling on to tracks cause delay or halt journeys. Between March 2016 and March 2017, 233 trains collided with fallen trees. The effect on customers cost the company hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation per year.
But it is unlikely that Network Rail or Sheffield council – which has felled around 6,000 trees as part of a project to “improve the condition of the streets” of the city – have considered the impact on humans caused by the removal of so much verdure. Research shows that time spent among trees causes levels of the stress hormone cortisol to decrease, lowers blood pressure, increases the number of active natural killer cells, so boosting immune function – and improves mood and concentration. In Japan, shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”, is a widespread approach to improving physical and mental health. Many of these beneficial effects are delivered by both phytoncides – volatile oils released by plants and trees to fend off infection – and by contact with beneficial soil bacteria.
Earth Day is celebrated around the world on 22 April(Nasa Earth Observatory)
Earth Day is celebrated around the world on 22 April.
Over 190 countries worldwide take part in Earth Day celebrations by organising various events every year.
On the occasion, IBTimes UK has compiled top ten quotes about the environment.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein
“I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use.” – Mother Teresa
“The good man is the friend of all living things.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Trees are Earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.” – Rabindranath Tagore
“The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” – Lady Bird Johnson
“An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment.” – David Attenborough
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau
“Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” – Walt Whitman
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ” – Lao Tzu
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson