forest is a concept of various aspects; the joining of man's physical
development in relation to nature and his own spirituality. Join with
me in exploring the urban forest. As any forest does, this one
contains diversity within a common theme. We will wander its paths as they
wind and branch. Enjoy my friends. We will share, learn and grow
Urban is defined as: of, relating to,
characteristic of, or constituting a city.
City is defined as: an inhabited place of greater size,
population, or importance than a town or village.
City dwelling has
become the norm for most of mankind today. The city is an artificial place of dwelling allowing man to support
large populations. The advent
of the internet may have decreased the need for population centralization,
but how this effects urban sprawl awaits to be seen. Our history has largely been one of city dweller over the nomadic
people. Cities not only support
the population by commerce, ease of distribution, job availability; but our
large numbers require a sophisticated waste removal system so we may
None of this requires that our cities isolate us from the
natural world around us. This
has been the result of economic efficiency. Land was developed for maximum usage without looking at the effect
this has on man – the inhabitants well being. In our rush for progress we followed the scientific method with great
developments in industrialization, technology and medicine. Had we not, the
world would have been unable to support so many of us. So now we are in the 21st Century. We look around, finding with all we have gained, that
something is missing. We have left nature behind even isolated ourselves in
We have developed the
cities. Now we must reintegrate the forest. The forest is the Bio-diversity needed for balanced life.
It provides for the interdependency needed for balanced body, mind
and soul. In isolation man
ceases to be the communal member of the earth community which is at his
In the following
pages we look at the link between man, other fauna, flora and the elements.
Man’s relation with the environment is critical for the achievement
of harmony for all earthlings. These pages take the holistic view of
well-being. I believe that our
personal health is dependent on the world around us.
man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's
or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.
John Donne (1572-1631)
So let’s look at
this interdependency and what is being done about it today, as well as where
we need to go. Our dealing with the rest of the earth community will dictate
how we treat each other. Perhaps
in all the years since John Dunne wrote these lines we have been unable to
solve the issues raised because we consider it too narrowly. If we consider mankind alone we can not answer this.
Only in the broader context as earthlings are there answers.
is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die
from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also
happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the
earth befalls the children of earth”
The Lithograph "Earth Guardian" By Sandra San Tara is available at
even order her designs on a T-Shirt This copyrighted original is used
Here with permission from the artist.
this what we see among the people? How
man is treating his fellow man. The
youth banding in gangs with no regard for life, even their own? The urban forest may help restore the spirit.
Scientists have already researched and documented the physical health
benefits the urban flora have on air temperature, humidity and quality. I
think we have even more to gain.
urban forest is as important as the reforestation projects. If every
city on earth were designed to provide a 40% tree canopy as advised
by the American Forest Organization and additional layering down to
ground cover is used, then the quality of life would be improved for
every individual on earth. Air quality and the esthetic qualities
which shape man's relationships would be improved. Improved quality
of life would lessen the reasons of conflict when they are spread
Noble Peace Prize has now been given to a person who links the
environment, freedom and world peace as mutually serviced goals.
"Many wars in the world are actually fought over natural resources,"
Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai told NRK Norwegian radio
upon accepting the award. "In managing our resources ... we plant
the seeds of peace, both now and in the future."
can order Wangari Maathai's book, Green Belt Movement at Amazon.com
just click on the picture
So how can you help
develop the urban4est? As one individual you may think you can’t
make a difference. There lies the beauty of the urban4est. Both
public and private land no matter how large or small, play their parts.
Indoor and out you can add to the biodiversity of your city. A yard
allows you to grow your own multi layered forest. But even without a
yard, some trees and large plants can be grown on a balcony or roof top.
If you need help in your garden (indoor or out), try the floratherapy
consultation page on this site.
By growing trees on
both private and public lands an adequate canopy can be grown to improve the
physical and spiritual environment. If you wish to form a local
organization to promote tree growth or you are a local government needing
advise, an excellent source is American Forests.
This organization can
help your city calculate the forest canopy needs. It is also a good
source for interesting information for tree enthusiasts. A county that
has implemented an aggressive campaign is Broward County in Florida. Their
web site explains what, why and how they are rebuilding their urban forest
canopy following a natural disaster.
Two good articles on
urban forest planning can be found Here
The first explores problems facing Seattle’s urban forest. The
second outlines the plans for replanting at Harvard. Both are very
useful for planning your own private or public forest.
My guidelines for your forest are as follows:
- Take a hike in a nearby natural area
- Layer your Trees and plants
- Use any suitable native plants
1) Take a hike
in a nearby natural area
Observe nature. See how plants
interact with each other to form a forest or woods. Look up and down. Observe
the tallest trees, the lower ones, the bushes, the small plants; down to
the moss and lichen. A well balanced urban forest will include all
of these inhabitants. Also see how animals depend on the
environment. Watch the birds and the insects. As your forest
grows they will be visiting there also. Look at the ground. Is it
sandy? Is it gravelly? What about the stones? Turn
some over and see how they help hold moisture and act as home for many
insects and earthworms that help condition the soil naturally without
expensive chemicals. After you have really looked at what is going
on in nature, go back to your yard.
2) Layer your trees and plants
Layering in the vertical air space of
your garden gives better space utilization. In nature there is
an upper canopy created by the crowns of the taller trees. Below
this a secondary canopy is composed of the younger or shorter trees.
Within both may be tall bushes. The next layer is the medium and
small shrubs and taller plants. Beneath these are the smaller
plants and decorative flowers.
By layering your urban forest, you
multiply all the benefits of a garden. Air quality, dust control,
humidity, temperature, lower power and water usage (once matured) and
aesthetics are all increased. Just as in nature, layering allows
you to have a wide variety in a small space. This is easily done
whether your environment is alpine, temperate, tropical, desert and
etc. A layered forest can as easily be created with plumeria and
hibiscus as with cactus and succulents.
Need help? Try the Urban4est CONSULTATION
Diversity is critical.
Diversify by size, character and family. You are planting many
plants in a small space to optimize your personal forest.
Diversity not only assures variety in sizes and types of plants.
It reduces the chance of disease and pests ruining your forest.
If one type of plant is used the diseases and pests can easily spread
quickly throughout the garden. Diversifying decreases
4) Use Native plants
I recommend using native plants
whenever possible. Wild native plants in many areas of the globe
are threatened by the introduced imports. Help preserve the
native plants. Native plants are adapted to the local
environment. They will require less care and soil preparation
than most imports. Also they provide known food supplies for
local birds and butterflies. For information on Native plants in your
area talk to your nurseryman, a master gardener, county agriculture
extension office and search the web.
I know of no better way
to bring nature into your urban environment than through gardening.
The seeds are planted check back as the forest
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