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  The urban 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 together.

  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 survive.

      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 artificiality.

    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 core.

    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.

...no 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.

“What 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”

                                 Chief Seattle

The Lithograph "Earth Guardian" By Sandra San Tara is available at 
You can even order her designs on a T-Shirt This copyrighted original is used Here with permission from the artist.

    Isn’t 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.


    The 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 worldwide.

    The 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."

 You 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.

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.

Broward's urban forest initiative

    Two good articles on urban forest planning can be found Here  and 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:

  1. Take a hike in a nearby natural area
  2. Layer your Trees and plants
  3. Diversify
  4. 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 page.


3) Diversity
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 those dangers.


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 grows.

Virtual discussion added to spirituality section please check it out (discussion forum)


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