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BEFORE: Google street view of the tree that was removed. This image is a few years old, perhaps a decade. The tree was much taller, with a much larger trunk & a bigger canopy.

AFTER:  Photo taken today after all branches were removed. The top of the trunk is higher than I can reach.

What is wrong with people?   Late last week a mature Bottlebrush tree outside 89 Warren Road was unceremoniously chopped to nothing, but a trunk.   It looks awful.  It is one less tree in this street.  It also is a waste of rate-payers’ money & a waste of Council’s work.

This vandalism has robbed the community of all the benefits this tree was providing.  It was more than 20-years-old.   Local people have contacted me about this tree & they feel furious that the tree has been destroyed & they want the Inner West Council to replace it as fast as possible.

Some facts about the value of trees to help any vandal who may happen to read this realise that their actions actually have a bigger negative impact than just losing a tree –

  • A good street tree can add 30% to your property value.
  • A street full of good leafy street trees is a real estate agent’s pleasure because all houses will sell for more than the same kind of house in the same kind of condition in a street that does not have street trees, or has poor quality street trees.
  • Street trees provide a buffer from traffic & collect particulate matter pollution from passing vehicles.  Without this buffer, that particulate matter pollution is much more likely to reach your lungs.
  • Particulate matter causes lung irritation, respiratory illnesses & impairs airway function. It also can cause irregular heartbeat, heart attacks & premature death in people with heart or lung disease.  It also collects on buildings.
  • The shade of a tree can reduce air temperature by 1 – 8 degrees Celsius.
  • The canopy acts as a buffer for wind & can reduce wind speed by 10%.
  • A street tree can save up to $400 on your annual power bill.
  • Trees are nature’s air conditioners & they cool down surface heat & lower the urban heat island effect.
  • Trees also sequester CO2 & produce oxygen.
  • They help capture stormwater.
  • Trees provide habitat & food for wildlife.
  • People are happier when in leafy green streets. Since we have very little green space (the former Marrickville LGA had the least green space in Australia), the streets and the street trees are our green space, aside from parks.
  • People are happier & have less depression when able to be around trees.

So well done.  This is a busy street with both pedestrians & vehicle movement.  It’s hot walking around there.  The locals are angry with you.  You did not enrich the streetscape.  Instead, you destroyed part of it & this is a terrible way to treat both the tree & the community to whom that tree belonged.

What is left.

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Shaw Street Petersham has not changed much since I lived here almost 40 years ago. I’ve always found it to be a beautiful street not only because of the houses, but because of the wonderful tall street trees.  

My very first experience of public green space is my street. ~ Dr Libby Gallagher.

Recently, ABC Radio National program ‘The Money’ by Richard Aedy did an episode on the costs & benefits of streetscapes & their value.  Guests were –

  • Associate Professor Michael Andreu – School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida.
  • Dr Libby Gallagher – Landscape architect and director of Gallagher Studio.
  • Dr Lyndal Plant – Urban Forester Pty Ltd.
  • Roger Swinbourne – Technical Director at AECOM.

Roger Swinbourne listed the following benefits of street trees – air quality, providing shading, biodiversity, water quality, winter temperature variations, average heat wave temperatures are all impacted by the quantity of trees we have in our cities.

The study showed a whole other list of values the street trees provided.  There is a strong link to the canopy and the mental health of the community.  Canopy coverage also helps mitigate air pollution.

Shade really matters.  A canopy increase from 20% to 28% lowers the air temperature by 4-degrees & road/pavement temp by 14-degrees, which is pretty substantial.

The net benefits of street trees outweigh the costs of infrastructure issues such as lifting footpaths.

Dr Libby Gallagher did research in Brisbane that found that houses in leafy streets sell for higher prices, but how much higher was dependent on the amount of canopy cover those trees provided.  The houses were 4% more expensive.

An Australian property developer listed a good tree-lined street as number 1 of what people were looking for when buying.

Then Dr Libby Gallagher spoke about the Cool Streets program held at Blacktown City Council.  It was found that a mix of evergreen & deciduous & more trees boosted property & lowered electricity bills.  Initially the residents chose small trees.  After seeing the benefits of large canopy trees to their electricity bills & health, they chose taller trees & more trees more densely planted along the street.  The residents also contracted to water and care for the trees.  They took ownership of those trees because they helped plant them & because they know the significant benefits those trees will bring them once they have grown.

Associate Professor Michael Andreu spoke about Tampa costing the value of all their trees, which came to a massive $35 million.   He also spoke about development & trees.  The city quantifying the urban forest allows everyone to understand the use of the trees & how much these trees contribute.  It helps the city explain to developers why they cannot just chop trees down.  The information they have about their trees allows them to include them in infrastructure planning.  Singapore is one city that prioritizes their trees in planning.

40-metre tall street trees in Surry Hills were given as an example of trees that would not be planted these days.  Once these trees die they will likely be replaced by something much smaller & this is despite the enormous amenity these trees are providing now.

With more development happening now, trees are not being recognised for their amenity that they provide 24-hours a day.

You can listen to the program here –

http://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pel3NwJKgQ?play=true

Screenshot of ‘Health impacts of air pollution – South East Coast Greater Melbourne 2016’ – see http://bit.ly/2tu86I0

First I noticed Sydney Council was reclaiming the road corners & creating verge gardens.  Now Inner West Council is also doing this & I think it is wonderful.

I have seen a few of these popping up around Stanmore, Dulwich Hill & Marrickville, though there may be others in suburbs that I have not seen.

Claiming back land to green it up will have many benefits for the community.  Plants & a street tree will obviously soften the landscape & add beauty.  As the tree grows it will create shade, which will lower the urban heat island effect.   If it is a native tree, it will provide food for urban wildlife, which should a priority in my mind.

Street trees trap particulate matter on their leaves, thereby improving air quality & lowering air pollution levels.

The resulting impact of air pollution on the health of people is starting to gain considerable traction amongst the scientific community.  Air pollution has a tonne of negative impacts such as higher incidence of respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis & emphysema.  Lung capacity & lung function also decreases.

There is an increased risk of cancer, especially breast cancer, as well as heart disease in all ages, including more fatal heart attacks.  Stroke is another high risk.

Air pollution is a threat to child health with lower birth weight & the increased the risk of infection & developmental delays.  Alzheimer’s disease & other dementias are the latest significant health issues found to be linked to air pollution.  The authorities cannot dismiss air pollution considering the incredible amount of suffering & the costs associated with helping people affected by air pollution.

The photos below shows Clarendon Road Stanmore.  The corner has extensive work creating a verge garden & a large garden on what was once road.  A street tree has also been planted.  If this is the way of the future for many of our wide roads & expansive corners, it will transform the streetscapes of the former Marrickville municipality.

I think it is great that Council has started to use these spaces to add green & trees.  They will not impact on driver sight, as clearly demonstrated in neighbouring suburbs that have many more street trees then we do.  Another added benefit is that corners given this treatment may slow drivers down.  They smaller distance pedestrians need to cover to cross the road should also improve safety.

It’s a win for wildlife & a win for the community.

Clarendon Road Stanmore has been transformed.  The opposite side has a small verge garden.

I am pleased to see Council using a variety of native plants. Once grown they could offer habitat for small insects and lizards.

What a positive change to this section of Unwins Bridge Road. Street trees and verge gardens on both sides of the road!

In May 2017 I posted about the new verge gardens created along both sides of Unwins Bridge Road from Tramway Street to the corner of Gannon Street Tempe. See – http://bit.ly/2r7xu1O

I was hopeful that street trees would be planted too.   Well, my wish was granted.  Not only has Inner West Council planted street trees, but they planted a lot of them in just one block.  I think this is the largest number of new trees planted in one block that I have noticed since starting this blog.

Twelve Ornamental pear trees have been planted on the eastern side & seven on the western side of Unwins Bridge Road. This is the species Council are planting along Unwins Bridge Road.

You may have noticed that many of our high traffic roads are lined with Ornamental pear trees.  I think it is because they are so robust & can tolerate poor growing conditions.  They create a fairly dense canopy, so will provide a good pollution barrier between the traffic & the houses collecting some of the particulate matter from passing vehicles.   They should also help muffle some of the traffic noise & cool the street as well.

The trees will also add beauty to this section of Unwins Bridge Road that was previously dominated by concrete for what seems like forever.  The change is quite striking even at this early stage after planting.  Imagine how it will look once everything has grown.

Council has planted a variety of plants from native grasses to native violets & other small plants.  These too will help manage air pollution, add beauty & cool the area down.

I applaud Council for doing this work & for choosing to plant street trees in that location.  The trees will work to improve the air quality for local residents who have to tolerate massive amounts of traffic passing by seven days a week & the associated pollution.

If all our heavy traffic roads could also have the same treatment, this will help improve the health of the residents now & into the future.  More & more research is finding that street trees have a considerable impact on the health of the community, so the more our urban forest increases, the better it will be for all of us.

Showing the western side of Unwins Bridge Road.

Quite a range of plants in the verge gardens.

This is the eastern side of Unwins Bridge Road Tempe looking toward the roundabout at the corner of Gannon Street.  I think verge gardens will make a huge difference to the streetscape.

I was pleased to see newly created verge gardens along both sides of  Unwins Bridge Road from Tramway Street to the corner of Gannon Street Tempe.  This is one of the gateways to our area with thousands of vehicles travelling past every day.  The houses are lovely, but the streetscape is not.  Verge gardens will be a boon to the residents who will benefit from a drop in the urban heat island & the addition of beauty.

The verge gardens also put something between pedestrians & the vehicles, which is excellent as so many of the pedestrians are school children.

I am interested to see what Council plants & whether any street trees are included.  Council has planted ornamental pear trees further up the road from Tempe High School all the way to Tillman Park, so there is a chance street trees will be planted here.

Well done Inner West Council.  The creation of verge gardens is transforming streets across the former Marrickville municipality & I think it is great that attention is being given to Tempe.

Southern side of Unwins Bridge Road Tempe, again looking toward Gannon Street.  Even small verge gardens improve the streetscape.  

No street trees is a feature of New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill. The new development in view did not include street trees, though they did include concrete.

New concrete – no street trees. Is this the best this will look?

This new development in New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill at least put in street trees. I find the power pole in the middle of the footpath odd.

We cycled up New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill last week & were surprised at the large developments happening there.  Our area is changing fast.

One of the high-rise blocks has four Brushbox trees planted out front, though one is already dead.   Street trees of this kind will enhance the streetscape and keep the footpath area cool so I am glad they were planted.

The other high-rise building has no street trees, just a long expanse of brand new concrete.

If this is going to be the future look for New Canterbury Road, then I think it is a missed opportunity.  Inner West Council needs to insist that developers include a decent number of street trees as part of the development & dare I say, verge gardens.  There certainly is room enough for them.

When NSW Transport built the light rail stations, they did not stop at station infrastructure.  They also planted trees & other plants extensively both inside & around the light rail stations & made these places quite attractive.  It is this that I would like to see developers do when they build a new building for the area – to look at the streetscape surrounding & especially in front of their development.  What they don’t spend in concrete, they can spend on street trees & plants.   I learnt from listening to the architect for The Revolution in Marrickville that if something “green” is not mandatory, then they don’t bother to include it in the development.

More & more around Sydney I am noticing busy roads including verge gardens & it all works well.  With climate change starting to really make its impact & with three heatwaves already this year, development needs to change into something that assists the community.  Concrete does not cut it anymore.  We know too much about how great expanses of concrete is bad for us & exacerbates heat.

Brilliant awning in Waterloo. Just a small change allows the community to have tall street trees. Such a sensible idea.

I also think Council should make it mandatory to have street side building awnings to be of the kind that has cutouts to allow the canopy of a street tree to grow & gain height as is the norm all along the Princes Highway in North Sydney.  They have tall Brushbox trees growing along their business/shopping strip & all the trees have space for their canopy to grow.  It looks good & not only that, it is sensible.  I’ve also seen this in Waterloo.   Why can we not have this in our area?

 

Further down closer to Dulwich Hill shops – New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill is barren in many places.

To end on a positive note, I very much like the new verge gardens on both sides, corner of Myra Street & New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill. Council narrowed the road to add gardens and slow down traffic.  They have planted Callistemon ‘Little John,’ which is a fabulous plant.  It looks terrific.  

The view of housing development on Canal Road Alexandria.

A little further along Canal Road Alexandria – housing.

Sydneysiders need to be aware & highly concerned at the rapid growth & loss of green space that is currently happening, plus the plans to take even more green space away.

Once the green space is gone, it is gone forever.

The loss of green space is a serious public health issue.  Green space not only provides valuable habitat for wildlife, but it also cools the area around it.  We need places with trees, grass & other vegetation.

We need green places for our mental, physical & spiritual health.  Without access to decent green spaces human beings tend to suffer.   People who suffer from mental illness can feel more settled when they are out in nature.

Recent research found without going into green spaces on a regular basis, people tend to get stressed, anxious, depressed, move less & gain weight.  Many of us suffer morbid rumination, where we go over & over what we perceive are our failings or what is wrong with our lives.  Just going for a walk where there are good trees can stop this mental thought process & improve our happiness & life satisfaction levels.

Green spaces provide us with a stress break in our busy lives & gives our mind a break from mental fatigue. Regular experience in the leafy outdoors helps improve work performance.  It also helps improve our cognitive function, memory & ability to learn & retain information.

The intellectual development of children improves when they have contact with nature.   Those who have ADD/ADHD tend to respond well to time spent in nature & have more content retention ability.

Research found that plants in the workplace resulted in decreased sick leave, so imagine the impact if there was nice green space for workers to have their lunch.

Those with Alzheimers or dementia are helped by being in green space & being able to touch plants.

Various studies have found that urban dwellers with little access to green spaces have a higher incidence of psychological problems than people living near parks and that city dwellers who visit natural environments have lower levels of stress hormones immediately afterward than people who have not recently been outside.”  See – http://nyti.ms/2lmPlzr

It is a fundamental need of human beings to have access to good green spaces.  By good green spaces, I am not talking about a small patch of green on a main street or in a shopping mall, though these do have a significant role to play in offering areas of respite & helping lowering the urban heat island effect.

We all need areas where we can exercise for free without needing to pay for a gym membership.  We need space to let off steam, to run, to shout, to play games alone or with friends.

We also need spaces where were can walk or sit quietly – where the only sound is nature; the wind in the trees & birds singing.  We must keep those we have & not over develop them.

In my opinion, Council has a fundamental responsibility not to turn every green space into an entertainment venue.    Places must be left where the only entertainment is what you can see in the natural environment around you.  If people become depended on things to be provided for them to do in parks, they will lose the ability to relax or amuse themselves with whatever is around.

As our suburbs become more developed, our stress levels are likely to rise just doing everyday things like driving & shopping.  Already traffic is a major negative issue in the locality & parking is often a nightmare.

Our streets are also green spaces – or they can be depending on the species of street tree planted.  Squatty small canopy street trees do not have an impact, but big, full canopy street trees do.  Have a look at the streets that are fortunate enough to have 80-year-old plus Brushbox trees.  In the evening on hot days you will likely see pockets of people who have gathered outside in the shade.  Good street trees are excellent at fostering connectivity between neighbours.

Verge gardens encourage connectivity as well.  People like to talk about plants & gardening.  Verge gardens offer the ability to swap plants & provide cuttings.

Today the news reported that the Total Environment Centre has identified more than 70 green spaces across Sydney at risk of being lost to development.  See – http://bit.ly/2nrf0qZ

This is most concerning.  If allowed to go ahead, habitat will be lost, wildlife will suffer & in cases like Cooks Cove where they want to develop the wetlands in Barton Park (see – http://bit.ly/2jey4Xi ) migratory birds, frogs & other creatures will die.

The report from the Total Environment Centre said, “Sydney will build 664,000 homes between 2011 and 2031, with 60-70 per cent coming from “infill” developments within existing city boundaries.” 

We as the community will have to make our voice heard, considering the views of Anthony Roberts, the Minister in charge of Planning and Housing Affordability who said, “Anti-development activists are welcome to suggest ideas to me that will help us grow housing supply in NSW while protecting their favourite trees.”

I’ve got an idea Minister Roberts.  How about leaving all the green spaces alone & not allowing development in these areas.  It’s quite simple really.  Leave the parks, the golf courses & riversides for the community & so people in the future can use them as well.

I get annoyed at the simplistic view of politicians who, whenever the community speaks out against developing areas like Barton Park wetlands, say they are anti-development NIMBYs wanting people to move out of Sydney.  Do these political leaders not see another way in which green spaces & areas of vital habitat cab be retained for the benefit of the whole community now & most certainly for the benefit of future generations?  It can be done.

We had three heatwaves in February 2017 & this is expected to get worse as climate change accelerates.  Green spaces are essential components of a livable city.  That or we take a risk every year that heat wave events will be more frequent.  Loss of human life has happened in cities across the world as a result of heat waves.  Our government warned us that the power supply was likely to be shut off because of increased use of air-conditioning.

The urban heat island effect is another serious health issue that is relatively ignored.  Roads are still being covered in black bitumen as a way of maintaining them despite knowing that these are major heat sinks.

On 10th February 2017 the temperature at Blaxland Riverside Park in Sydney Olympic Park was 41.6 degrees in the shade.  However, some of the soft play surfaces in the children’s playground were around 84 degrees.  The road surface in the car park was almost 73 degrees.  This gives you an idea of our future if our gardens & streets are not significantly greened & if we lose green spaces.  See – http://bit.ly/2lxujhu

“As Sydney’s population is growing there’s more houses, less trees, less green, more roads … it’s adding to the heat.  ….. The way we’re going – and adding another million people plus an airport, more roads, more pollution, more industry, we can expect 10 more extreme hot days a year over 35 [degrees] ….. It will become the norm. Without the proper designs [and planning] the problem will only get worse.” ~ Stephen Bali, president of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils.

I remind you that the former Marrickville municipality has the least green space in Australia.  We cannot afford to lose any of it, not even a morsel despite whatever the so-called gain to the community is slated to be.  We cannot comment on public consultation in either the Leichhardt or Ashfield LGAs, despite being amalgamated into one large council.  Therefore, Marrickville’s abysmal amount of green space should not be watered down by including green space from the other two municipalities we have amalgamated with.

Council should be taking every opportunity they can to add to the green space by transforming suitable areas of public space.  I think they failed with Alex Trevallion Plaza in Marrickville Road Marrickville, the Marrickville Town Hall Forecourt & the latest being the unusually large street space area on the corner of Canterbury Road & Herbert Street Dulwich Hill, though this is my own opinion.

The public space outside the Victoria Road entrance of Marrickville Metro is also an area eliciting much conversation within the community.  All that I have read or heard has been negative.  Whether you like what Metro has done is personal, but there is no doubt a heat sink has been created with all that concrete & tiling.  It is also a big loss to see that a number of mature trees have been removed.

Corner of Canterbury Road and Herbert Street Dulwich Hill – an unusual opportunity by Council to make a truly green and inviting space for the community in this location. Missed opportunity and I bet this work cost a lot.

The space behind the above photo in Herbert Street Dulwich Hill. I am glad it is grass and not concrete, but what would be wrong with planting a couple of shade trees here and adding some benches. It could be a useful space for the community.

Marrickville Town Hall Forecourt today – ugly and hot.  Not an attractive meeting place for the community.  This cost $575,000

Alex Trevallion Plaza in Marrickville Road – speaks for itself.

Alex Trevallion Plaza. Two of the skinny gum trees died, so instead of replacing them, Council filled the holes with bitumen. Message: we cannot expect this place to look better for a long time.

New entrance to Marrickville Metro. I will post photos of their other landscaping work next post.  Numerous mature trees, a grassy knoll and plumbago hedge on three sides of seating was also removed.  It has been suggested that C stands for Concrete.

Beautiful Brushbox trees

Beautiful Brushbox trees

I was thrilled to see six good sized Queensland Brushbox trees planted along the west side of Livingstone Road near Marrickville Park.  Not only will these trees improve the streetscape, but they will also visually lead the eye to the park.  Big canopy street trees is totally appropriate for this wide road.

I was also pleased to see that Council did not remove the red flowering gum trees planted along here.  Although these trees could be deemed a failure because they range from around 1-metre to 1.8-metres tall after 5-years of growth, they still flower every year & provide food for wildlife.

Gorgeous streetscape in Lewisham.  We have a few streets like this and to me they are very precious.

Gorgeous streetscape in Lewisham. We have a few streets like this and to me they are special.

Marrickville streetscape that will one day be leafy when the Plane trees grow.

Marrickville streetscape that will one day be leafier when the Plane trees grow.

Dulwich Hill streetscape where street trees could be planted.

Dulwich Hill streetscape where street trees could be planted.

Planet Ark has released their newest research into the benefits of trees titled, ‘Adding Trees: A prescription for health, happiness and fulfilment.’  The report found that spending time in nature makes us “healthier, happier, brighter, calmer & closer.”

Research like this makes me feel happy because it confirms what I am trying to do with this blog is correct & that I am on the right path.  Trees, green spaces, access to nature & participation in natural surroundings is most definitely a public health issue.  In fact, it is a much bigger public health issue than I think is understood by many local councils in Australia.  Take these incredible statistics from the report as examples.

Time in nature reduces a person’s chance of –

  • developing diabetes by 43%,
  • developing cardiovascular disease & stroke by 37% &
  • developing depression by 25%.

Diabetes in Australia http://bit.ly/1WhzS2s says –

  • “Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes.
  • 280 Australians develop diabetes every day. That’s one person every five minutes.
  • The total annual cost impact of diabetes in Australia estimated at $14.6 billion.
  • For every person diagnosed with diabetes there is usually a family member or carer who also ‘lives with diabetes’ every day in a support role. This means that an estimated 2.4 million Australians are affected by diabetes every day.”

The Heart Foundation http://bit.ly/25enK7N says –

  • “Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of death in Australia, with 43,603 deaths attributed to CVD in Australia in 2013.
  • Cardiovascular disease (heart, stroke & blood vessel diseases) kills one Australian every 12 minutes.
  • CVD was the main cause for 518,563 hospitalisations in 2012/13 & played an additional role in another 680,000 hospitalisations.”

A paper by Heart Disease Research Australia http://bit.ly/29Qgs3b says –

  • “In 2010 Coronary Heart Disease had a financial burden of $5.1b & a burden of disease cost of $13.3b. Total economic cost of $18.3b.
  • Number of Australians dying from repeat heart attacks is expected to increase by over 40% (across all age groups) by 2020.”

The Submission to the Commission of Audit from the National Heart Foundation of Australia 2013 http://bit.ly/29N6QoD found that –

  • “Physical inactivity is a major health problem in its own right.
  • 54% of Australian adults are not physically active.
  • Physical inactivity costs …. an estimated $1.5 billion a year, causes 16,000 premature deaths a year, increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, colon & breast cancer & is a critical factor in Australia’s obesity epidemic, with more than half of all Australian adults being overweight or obese.”

For me it is much more enjoyable to be physically active in a lovely leafy park & along leafy green streets.  Improving the outlook of both our parks & streets by adding more trees to create more shade will encourage the community to walk, instead of instantly going for their air-conditioned car.

If walking can help lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, colon & breast cancer & obesity, should not the outlook of the parks & transforming the streetscapes be a priority for local councils? 

Beyond Blue http://bit.ly/1gRLoHG says –

  • “Depression costs the Australian economy approximately $12.6 billion per year and accounts for up to six million working days of lost productivity.” You can add further costs (monetary, lost productivity, personal & social) to others who are connected in some way to the depressed person.

If my calculations are correct the costs of just these these diseases in Australia is a minimum of $47 billion every year. 

Alcohol & other drug use, often connected to depression, also has a massive financial impact in the workplace & on the economy in terms of loss of productivity, absenteeism, mistakes & accidents in the workplace.  Then there are the social impacts & costs, which are vast.

If alcohol & other drug use in Australia was factored in, you could add $55.2 billion bringing the costs to a total of 102.2 billion every year.

The $55.2 billion comes from a 2008 report by Collins & Lapsley for health costs in 2004–2005.  Alcohol & other drug use in Australia seems to have accelerated since then, so we could reasonably expect the costs to be higher.

I wonder how much it would cost to increase the urban forest canopy in all metropolitan suburbs that had a poor or medium canopy, install aerial bundled cabling where needed & create green leafy parks, shopping strips & small green spaces.  I doubt the cost would come anywhere near $47 billion annually & most certainly not 102.2 billion every year.

Preventative health care is cheaper in the long run.  If trees, beautiful streetscapes & leafy shopping strips help make the community healthier & happier, why isn’t it being done to the degree that is needed by the bulk of our local councils?  To me it shows there needs to be a significant culture change toward trees in many areas in Sydney & undoubtedly in many areas in other cities.   Step 1:  allocate significantly more to the annual budget for trees, streetscapes & parks.

There also needs to be a culture change when it comes to getting people to want to go outdoors & spend time in nature.  We live in a very fast paced world these days & the temptation to veg out watching television or playing internet games is strong.

Our kids do not have contact with nature like we did when I was a child.  In the research report there is a term – outdoor illiterate.”  I think it is a brilliant way to describe the consequences for children who spend very little time outdoors.

Today I saw something unusual in that a gum boot wearing toddler was splashing around in a puddle at the markets.  Her mum was enjoying watching her daughter having a good time.

The report found that children of today spend the bulk of their time inside on level floor surfaces.  As a consequence of this lifestyle it has been found that “Australian children cannot walk confidently and & skillfully in outdoor environs; they are unfamiliar with uneven ground, crossing rivers or negotiating steep hilly terrain (Stone, 2009).”  How sad is that.   Outside is becoming an issue too with more concrete paths being added to our parks.

It makes me wonder what are the implications for children’s ability to age well?  Flexibility & balance become increasingly important as one gets older.  Falling due to poor balance often results in a broken hip, necessitating surgery, lengthy rehabilitation & unfortunately for many, a one way journey to live out the rest of their lives in a nursing home.  Are we setting up children to have more problems earlier when they get older?

“The message is urgent: unplug, boot it down, get off-line, get outdoors, breathe again, become real in the real world.” ~ David Orr.

Not just children, but adults too.  Technology is great, but not if it comes at the cost of our children not being able to walk properly & people of all ages being sick, unhappy or chronically depressed.

Living in a city is great too, but again, not if we have poor green spaces, or too few green spaces or crowded green spaces that focus on providing organized entertainment with little or no space for peaceful reflection & down time.

A May 2016 article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled, ‘Sydney’s green spaces to get squeezed as city’s population swells’ ‪http://ow.ly/lVbw30016R7  said –

  • Over the next 15 years the amount of total open space per person in the city is expected to shrink by more than 20 per cent, from 18.3 square metres a head to 14.4 square metres by 2036.” Our courtyard is larger than this!
  • “By that stage the Sydney local government area will be home to an extra 81,000 people, up from 200,000 now.” And this is just the City of Sydney.

In the mid-1990s, Pyrmont had a population of around 1,000 people.  This has ballooned to more than 15,000 & the suburb is unrecognizable, at least from across the water at White Bay.

In the article, the demand for playing fields is deemed unachievable & so suggests that the way to provide what is needed is to install synthetic playing fields – so we will even lose the grass.

How the birds like magpies, galahs & little corellas who rely on these spaces will cope, I do not know, but the reality is, wildlife doesn’t feature much when local councils want to install synthetic turf.   Locally, you just need to look at Arlington Reserve to see this.  It all happened against fierce community opposition & at the same time as the light rail station was being built in an area where listed as ‘endangered’ Long-nosed Bandicoots were thought to live.

How did these animals cope when two green areas of habitat close to each other were being torn apart & redeveloped?  I think the attitude is that birds/animals will move on, but increasingly it is becoming an issue of “where to?”  The declining numbers of common native birds like the magpie is proof they are not adjusting to the loss of green space.

I don’t know about you, but a big part of my nature / green space experience is birds.  I like to see them. I like to look at them & I especially like to hear them.  As I ride around Marrickville & surrounds, I often pass through deadly quiet streets.  There are poor street trees, or few street trees & very few trees in gardens. As a consequence, there seems to be a lack of birds.  That or they are all sleeping when I ride past.

How do you keep a population happy & healthy if there is little green space & where wildlife doesn’t feature much?

I’ve already written too much & have barely touched on the findings of the report, so will post Part 2 soon.  It’s a brilliant report & certainly got me thinking.

It is great that Marrickville Council depaved and created verge gardens along this stretch in Sydenham, plus added some Poplar trees.  Before it was just hard concrete.

It is great that Marrickville Council depaved and created verge gardens along this stretch in Sydenham, plus added some Poplar trees. Before it was just hard concrete.

Pyrmont skyline from White Bay

Pyrmont skyline from White Bay.  I fear that the bulk of Sydney will look like this within 10-20 years.  

New street trees in Alice Lane Newtown

New street trees in Alice Lane Newtown

Very large rain garden in  Alice Lane Newtown

Very large rain garden in Alice Lane Newtown. Photo was taken 2 months ago, so it should be looking better now.

The new high-rise housing development on Alice Street is nearing completion.  I am pleased to see that all the street trees have been protected.  It was nice to see the shadow pattern of dappled leaves over balconies knowing that whoever lives there will look out onto the canopy of these trees & enjoy the shade, green & birdlife.  My bet is the outlook onto mature trees will be used as a selling point.

Behind this building in Alice Lane I counted 20 new trees planted as part of the development.  One species looks to be Banksia with another species planted with every alternate tree.

At the corner of Pearl Street & Alice Lane they (I am assuming this work was done by the developers) have built a large rain garden.  It looks great & will only improve as the plants grow.  It is obvious that planning has included making it an informal meeting place where people can sit & chat.

On the wall of the house that sits beside the rain garden in a very nice nature-themed mural painted by @mulgatheartist.  The outlook is ‘groovy tropical’ with Australian native birds looking hip wearing sun glasses.  It’s sweet, funny & a bit whimisical.  I like it a lot & I especially love that it is nature-themed.

Improvements like this help with stormwater & clean the water before it reaches the Cooks River, even from this far away.  The raingarden, new trees & mural also help soften the landscape, plus add beauty & a patch of habitat in a hard landscape.

Street art by @mulgatheartist.  I love it.

Street art by @mulgatheartist.   The whole mural made me laugh.

Shy flamingo - part of the mural.

Shy flamingo – part of the mural.

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