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A section of the new footpath work & verge gardens along Livingstone Road Marrickville. Changing all our footpaths & verges to something like this & planting trees will dramatically reduce stormwater runoff & reduce the heat island effect

When the environment is your interest, you get to read masses of articles about the subject. A good 90% of them are very concerning with many extremely concerning.  Every now & then I reach a point where I think it’s just too difficult. There is so much pollution, death & destruction & only relatively small pockets of people doing anything about it. Even then, it’s always a struggle to get others involved & to get the authorities/organizations/governments to take notice, take action & make the necessary changes.

Climate change denial is an exception as there are huge groups of people & corporations spending obscene amounts of money to get the message out that global warming is hysterical nonsense that should not be believed & they are winning.  Unfortunately for their cause of perpetuating human ignorance, selfishness & consumerism, the temperature in first world countries is playing up.  Recently California experienced ridiculously hot temperatures that made people question whether the climate change scientists have actually got it right. It’s hard to convince people that nothing is wrong when it’s 118 degrees Fahrenheit (47.7 degrees) for days on end in Los Angeles.

Global warming has been affecting people & the environment in third world countries for years, but their situation has been largely ignored by first world governments.

The authorities/organizations/governments rely on the fatigue that hits people who are working for the environment (or almost any other cause) as they think they will get tired & drop off & then everything can return back to the status quo.

Solar panels on the roof of Tillman Street Childcare Centre in Tempe. They look good to me.

So it was with this feeling of fatigue that I came across the following.  It is actually a call to join in on 10:10:10, which is a ‘Global Work Party’ happening on 10th October 2010 organised by www.350.org. So far 6,127 carbon-cutting events will take place in 187 countries to raise awareness about global warming.  Participants are trying to get the governments of the world to commit to reduce CO2 levels back to 350ppm. Right now CO2 levels are at 390ppm & rising.

It’s hard work. Even the US White House was refusing to get solar power panels until this week.  That they are going to put solar panels on the White House is seen as a huge act on behalf of the US government, where in fact I think it’s something that should have been done ages ago as a matter of course, not something that a large amount of people had to campaign for months to achieve.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to share something about the environment that is uplifting & actually empowering. It’s a ‘visual essay,’ so it’s easy & fun to read & the message is a good one. Each one of us can do something that will make a difference.

What Can One Person Do, When 6.8 Billion Are Frying The Planet?

http://www.frankejames.com/debate/?p=1896

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Street trees in Eastwood. Most of the residential streets in this & surrounding suburbs have many tall trees.

Dr Jago Dodson from Griffith University’s Urban Research Program is advocating the creation of many more community gardens in cities saying there will be increased pressure on urban areas to produce food in the future.

“In the context of some of the big challenges we’re facing – challenges about the sustainability of rural & regional agriculture, challenges about drought conditions, changing environmental conditions, questions about global warming’s impact on food supplies across the world & also questions about the sustainability of petroleum, which is one of the key inputs into industrial agricultural systems – those big changes are going to start to motivate more creatively how we produce food in society.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/22/2852294.htm

Most residential streets in Chatswood have many tall, shady street trees. This is the norm.

Dr Dodson has some innovative ideas that I think are really exciting.  Judging by Marrickville Council’s support for the latest verge gardening project in Wilga Avenue & the community garden in Denison Road Dulwich Hill, I would imagine Council will also support other community gardens in the LGA.  This year they have said they will provide help in-kind such as removing cement to facilitate such projects & that there are a number of suitable places for community gardens in the LGA.  Access to water is the main issue if the gardens are not on the verges out front.

I predict community gardens will be as popular as book clubs in the not too distant future & as is with Book Clubs, only limited places are available so it pays to be involved from the beginning.

The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published research from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam showed that living less than 1km (0.62miles) from a green space had a major impact in lowering the incidence of major physical disease & mental ill-health.

Professor Barbara Maher of the Lancaster Environment Centre said, “The study confirmed that green spaces create oases of improved health around them especially for children.” She said, “At least part of this ‘oasis’ effect probably reflects changes in air quality.”

More proof that a good-sized street tree out front does more than beautify, raise property values & reduce your power costs for heating & cooling.  Street trees also remove up to 60% of street level particulate matter such as dust, smoke, ash & the sooty bi-product from car & truck exhausts that we would generally filter through our lungs & which cause asthma & other respiratory illnesses. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8307024.stm

A recent study found tripling the number of street trees could reduce asthma among children by 25 percent.  Researchers from Columbia University in the US found rates of asthma fell by a ¼ when there were around 350 more trees in a square kilometre. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2008/05May/Pages/Asthmarisklowinleafysuburbs.asp

The research found that children are less likely to develop asthma if they live in tree-lined streets, particularly in areas with more street trees.  Here, I think they mean nice big trees with a canopy, not the hacked variety that are so prevalent in Marrickville LGA.

Part of the aims of New York City’s Million Tree Program is to reduce the incidence of respiratory illness as well as improve the overall mental & physical health of its residents.  They also believe in global warming & in 2005, New York tallied its CO2 emissions & found they were approximately 1% of US totals & less than 1/3 of the average US per capita level. 79% CO2 came from buildings. They believe their emissions are so low because there is a heavy reliance on cycling & public transport use. They still to reduce their CO2 emissions by a further 33%. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2007/2007-04-11-03.asp

Rockdale City Council planted street trees along both side of the Princes Hwy Rockdale for approximately 2 km. The awnings posed a problem, so each tree was pruned into a ball & these are maintained regularly. I like what Rockdale Council has done. It looks great & brings green every 3 metres along the shopping strip.

A short, succinct article from Real Estate Agents about the monetary worth of trees on your property, which says, “mature trees & a well-landscaped yard can improve your home’s value by 10-25%.”

Every time I mention this to others I watch the disbelief on their faces, yet this estimate is a number I come across repeatedly in research & articles about the value of trees.

Try looking in the local community papers in the Real Estate section.  If there is a street tree in front of the property, the photographer always includes a branch or leaves from the tree in the photo of the property.  They do this because the sight of trees has a subconscious effect on us.  When we see leafy green, we get a feeling of peace & safety even if we are not directly aware of this. Leafy green means good place to rear children, safety & happiness.  Not to many of us will look at a photo of a property surrounded by cement with no green & compare it favorably with a property that has trees & landscaping, even if the greener property is of lesser value.

http://www.keeferealestate.com/news/concierge.php?itemid=620

The iconic Coral trees in Clifton Gardens were chopped down mid April 2010 by Mosman Council as part of an upgrade of the picnic area. They said the trees had a high-hazard rating.  The residents were very unhappy to lose these & 4 other trees. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/trees-cleared-at-clifton-gardens-no-picnic-for-some-residents/

Professional tree trimmers in Gilroy California killed 2 owlets when they chopped down a palm tree despite being warned twice about the nest. The Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Center is caring for the third owlet, who survived the fall. Police are investigating. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2008/05/21/2-baby-owls-killed-when-palm-tree-cut-down/UPI-39621211398657/

Energy Australia reduced a Frenches Forest woman to tears after their tree pruners entered her property & ‘butchered’ her trees.  She said her trees grew straight upwards & were 4 metres away from the power lines & Energy Australia’s intervention was unnecessary.  The first comment by ‘Chips’ is also interesting as he says this has happened to trees on his property numerous times. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/tears-over-butchered-garden/

Good news… Buffalo, Illinois, a town of 500 residents has no more room for street trees. They have been focused on street tree planting since 1986 & have now run out of room.  Mike Dirksen, city arborist in nearby Springfield said, “There are so many benefits from trees.  They shouldn’t just be seen as having an ornamental purpose.” This should be engraved on a gold plaque. Bet the town looks stunning! http://friendsoftrees.org/blog/2010/04/16/illinois-town-has-no-more-room-for-trees/

CELEBRITY NEWS (drum-roll please) Last April, in Sao Paulo, Avatar Producer James Cameron & actor Sigourney Weaver planted a native Brazilian tree pau-brasil which is 99% extinct to kick-off a global Earth Day Network which intends to plant 1 million trees in 15 countries by the end of 2010.  http://www.tonic.com/article/james-cameron-plants-first-one-million-trees/

Chatswood, Ashfield, Pacific Hwy & Alexandria - all are very busy roads & they have large street trees at close spacing.

I was invited by Marrickville Greens to go to watch the magnificent Lemon Scented Gum street tree in Cambridge Street Stanmore being chopped down by Marrickville Council.  For various reasons I declined, but I know I did not want this image imprinted on my memory.  I have come to love this tree & I am distressed about its loss.  To me, it was no ordinary street tree.

Marrickville LGA has some gorgeous trees, mostly in parks, though there are also good ones that are street trees.  However, we have thousands of butchered, stumpy & not good-looking street trees all over the LGA & it is noticeable if you look.

I think many of us have become desensitised to the ugliness of our street trees because their disintegration happens over time & we just get used to seeing them in this poor condition.  Leave the LGA & you immediately notice the differences.

This magnificent street tree is gone

The Lemon Scented Gum in Cambridge Street Stanmore was one of the better-looking street trees in the whole LGA & this is not an exaggeration.  Do I think this because I like Gums?  Yes & no.  I do like Gum trees, but I also like most other trees.  I am an all-round tree lover though I admit to preferring tall stature trees & especially trees which flower & provide food for insects, birds & animals.

I think it is necessary in an urban environment to think about wildlife when choosing trees to plant.  I also think we have a duty to provide food for these creatures who are losing more & more food resources every year.  If you don’t believe me, put out a birdbath in a safe place in your garden & watch how long it takes for birds to arrive.  They are short of water as well.  When we built a fishpond, the rare frogs of the area arrived within 2 days & there wasn’t other ponds around.  Where did they come from, we wondered.  If you plant flowering trees & shrubs that feed birds, they will come in droves & the air will be filled with birdcalls.

So for a tree of this magnitude to be cut down seems ridiculous to me.  The tree provided refuge for both wildlife & humans because it was a flowering native tree & its canopy significantly cooled the air in the street.  This is not a feeling I am used to when I walk the streets of my local area.  Mostly I cannot walk during the day because the streets are so hot with the heat reflected by the road & concrete.  I believe that as temperatures rise due to global warming, the heat island effect is going to get worse & we are going to bake.  City of Sydney Council recognises this & intends to plant 10,000 more trees in the CBD this year to counteract the heat.

I am aware the residents who wanted the tree removed said it was causing cracking to their house & Council felt hamstrung because of the potential of litigation.  However, because we do not have a Significant Tree Register, our public trees are vulnerable.  Cracking to houses can always be repaired & it is something we should expect when we live in 100 year old houses, which are built on clay soils & with poor quality mortar.  In fact, even renovated houses in the Inner West need regular work as they are always deteriorating.  It comes with the territory. That’s why many people prefer to live in modern units or project homes that are built on cement slabs.  As a norm, tree roots are not strong enough to lift a concrete slab.

Ordinary street in Chatswood with multiple large street trees- a very different outlook to our LGA

When we respect trees & fully appreciate their positive impact on our lives &  vital role in our civilization’s existence, if atmospheric levels of CO2 continue to rise as expected, then we will do everything we can to keep our mature trees that sequester large amounts of CO2.

The removal of this tree affects the whole community, not just the residents of Cambridge Street.  First is it one tree, then another tree & so on.  Before we know it, the whole streetscape is changed & not for the better.  It took 40 years for that tree to grow a 2.5 metre girth & it had at least another 60 years of life left in it.  Eucalypts often live 100 years or more.  All it took was 4 ½ hours for it to be gone.

The Marrickville Greens tried to get a stay of execution to try other methods to repair the cracking & fix the problem at ground level. The Labor & Independent Councillors had to power to grant this so that amelioration could be tried to give the tree a chance to be saved.  I would have conceded defeat if all avenues had been tried & agreed the tree needed be removed, but these avenues weren’t given a chance.   I am sure the Greens feel the same as I do.  This tree was also worth a lot of money to the community & especially to Cambridge Street.  Better to sell a house before a tree is cut down than after.

Our tree assets get voted out because of concrete, their particular species, because they are old, because, because, because.  I have not yet seen tree saving strategies voted in during council meetings, only the opposite.  Trees are seen as a nuisance & a liability.  The reality is: not having trees is a liability.

I will work with Labor & the Independents as well as the Greens if they are pro-trees & the greening of Marrickville LGA.  However, since I have started, I have noticed that support for my vision comes from the Greens & not from Labor or the Independents.  To be fair, Labor did reverse their decision over the Mackey Park Figs, but not until after a community protest of 300 people & an even larger petition.

Once again, regarding the Cambridge Street tree, the Greens voted to keep the tree.  Once again, the vote to remove the tree comes from the other counsellors.  Is it a pattern? Saving Our Trees hasn’t been alive long enough to be able to answer this question.

Frankly I was shocked when I read on the Greens website that:  Independent Councillor Dimitrios Thanos recently emailed Councillors & staff saying: “I’ll grab my chainsaw & meet the staff down there on the appointed day.” I just know he & I are not on the same page when it comes to trees.

Getting back to my intro, I didn’t want to go & watch the ‘Elle McPherson of trees’ be chopped down, but the Marrickville Greens did witness this.  You can read their posts about this tree –http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/risk-averse-council-condemns-stanmore’s-biggest-eucalypt-to-the-chainsaw/ & you can also view 2 photos taken today by the Greens at – http://yfrog.com/37y6 & http://yfrog.com/1ehcezj &

http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/stanmores-largest-gum-tree-turned-into-woodchip/

A small part of the crowd

Today we went to the Walk Against Warming, which was organised by the Conservation Foundation of NSW & it was excellent.  Martin Place was packed when we arrived & I was lucky to get a space on a bench with a good view of the crowd & the stage.  Lots of photos.  The police estimated the crowd at around 15,000, though the number was easily 20,000 when, 45 minutes later the walk started.  Melbourne apparently had 50,000 people & Brisbane 10,000.

This man will save the planet

A 12 year old girl gave an incredibly articulate & rousing speech. Then she & a group of primary school children sang the winning song of a competition.  Goodness, there is talent in our community.  I have no doubt, if professionally produced, this song could be in the Top 40.

It was great that young people got to be the main speakers as they are the ones to whom we are leaving this mammoth problem.  A woman whose name I cannot remember gave a fabulous speech about how ordinary people can participate in action to lobby our politicians to take action on climate change because that’s how she got started.

The crowd was made up of people of all ages from a new born to old people needing walking sticks. The Unions were there, schools, climate & environmental groups, the Greens, mums & dads & dogs, many dogs.  There were lots of young people, which belies what I have been told that they are not interested in the issue of climate change.

Endangered Polar Bear leading the march

Apart from the Wilderness Society’s drummers, who were drumming a fantastic samba near the front of the march, it was the quietest march I have ever attended.  Everyone was polite & there was absolutely no aggression, though I imagine these events may become more vocal if our governments take no significant action in the near future.

It was a total success & I hope the State & Federal Governments take note of what is happening around the country this weekend.  My absolute respect goes to the two people who spent this hot afternoon in Polar Bear suits.  We were sunburnt, so they must have really suffered.

If you haven’t heard of 350.org, they are a group founded by Bill McKibben organizing international community action on 24th October 2009, which aims to convince the governments of the world to agree on a world target of 350 parts per million Carbon Dioxide (350 ppm CO2) in the atmosphere when they meet in Copenhagen December 2009.  The web-site at www.350.org has all the facts, but in short, scientific consensus is that 350 ppm of CO2 is the upper level of CO2 to stop the planet tipping into climate crisis.  We are already at 389.42 ppm & humanity has to act immediately to stop CO2 levels increasing.  The aim is to return CO2 levels back to 350 ppm as soon as possible.

Saving Our Trees has just signed up with 350.org to hold 350 TWITTER HOUR – 24th OCTOBER 2009.  For more information on how to participate click on the ‘350 action 09’ page at the top of the left hand column.

If you are coming in via a link and want to view the whole web-site press the following link https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/

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