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ARTICLE: Are There Still Trees in the City?

June 11, 2010

Trees and skyscrapers unite, St. Claire & Yonge

City being Toronto, or really, any large metropolis. For years I’ve been fascinated by the subtle and not so subtle appeal of ‘urban forestry’ –whether it be a ‘tree cover’ to balance the infrastructure of a new strip mall, or an abandoned field who is next-door-neighbours to a newly installed condominium. Green spaces are part of any urban complex with environmental, economic, and aesthetic elements. And I am shocked at times when I notice substantial greenery in the city, shocked and curious how the relationship between city and country co-exist. Are there still trees in the city, how are they doing, what’s our relationship to nature in a city environment?

I’m a city boy. In the big cities they’ve set it up so you can go to a park and be in a miniature countryside, but in the countryside they don’t have any patches of big city, so I get very homesick.  – Andy Warhol

Unlike the infamous Warhol, I’m ecstatic over parks in the city. It’s where most of my treespotting takes place. And as a country girl, I like the oasis of leafy chlorophyll trees after an eye-strain of block-by-block-by-block  cement, brick and glass. Not to be antagonistic, I do gush over the gritty aesthetics of the city, yet I’m conflicted about how to appreciate and feel about these juxtaposing

men cutting down trees in city

Men cutting down trees, near St. Claire and Yonge

landscapes. How authentic is this park? Is this plant here for my visual pleasure, strategic and almost man-made? How many trees were cut down to erect a park in a convenient setting? The benches, the garbage bins, the bronze plaques, the gardening stones: all for show and I’m seeking out some way to sort it all out. Criticism towards urban forestry isn’t entirely negative (apparently) as studies suggest that city trees are key for distributing CO2 for heavily populated areas therefore partially delaying global warming. Urban trees absorb more combusted carbon annually than forestry counterparts. Hmmm…

In the city, even the trees in the parks work hard because the number of people they have to make oxygen and chlorophyll for is staggering. If you lived in Canada you might have a million trees making oxygen for you alone, so each of those trees isn’t working that hard. Whereas a tree in a treepot in Times Square has to make oxygen for a million people.

Well Andy, our Canadian trees are working overtime too. Green window dressing? Actual environmental benefits? Dammed if I know.

…to be continued…

Quotes from The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again) pg. 154

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