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Today, 22nd March is World Water Day. The UN says the objective of World Water Day 2011 is to “focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization & uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts & natural disasters on urban water systems.”

The theme for 2011 is Water for Cities & “aims to spotlight & encourage governments, organizations, communities & individuals to actively engage in addressing the challenges of urban water management.”

During last Sunday 20th to Monday 21st March parts of Sydney received a record-breaking 6 weeks of rain in just 24 hours with the weather forecasters saying this was related to climate change.  The UN says climate change will force more people to live in cities, further stressing the current water management infrastructure.

Stormwater entering the Cooks River at Mackey Park. This is a slow trickle compared to many other occasions

You only needed to be out on the roads last Sunday to see that many parts of Marrickville LGA were flooded & driving conditions were dangerous.  Most stormwater in Marrickville LGA enters the drains until eventually reaching the Cooks River.  It’s great Marrickville Council has built a number of bio-swales near the river & set up pollution traps to filter the stormwater as it enters the river. The swales clean up the oils & other ground pollutants collected by stormwater. However, swales are relatively new infrastructure & there is much more work to be done across all the relevant Councils before we can say that the Cooks River is fully protected from stormwater pollutants.

Cooks River pollution trap at Mackey Park

Sydney City Council is planning to capture stormwater from roofs of a large residential area in their Sustainable Street Project.  Thousands of litres of stormwater is already being collected in Myrtle Street Chippendale proving that it can be done easily & cheaply. This water is used to water their verge gardens & so far there has not been a need to use water from a private home.

To divert & collect water from roofs is not rocket science so I wonder why we are not all doing it in cities & town across Australia.  Marrickville Council has said that many of the new street trees planted die due to lack of water. Very few people want to water the street tree out front because of the added cost to their water bills, yet rainwater from our roofs can be easily diverted to the street tree & verge. Instead, most of the stormwater races past over hard surfaces & the tree gets only as much water as it can grab.  If it is a tree in an area that floods, it gets a bigger drink. If not, then it has to learn to survive on very little water or send its roots to where it can access water, often the front garden of the nearest property. This creates problems with some properties & yet it need not happen.

Cooks River pollution trap near Steele Park

The UN says the following about urban water – “There is growing evidence that water resources will be significantly affected by climate change, both in quantity & quality, particularly through the impact of floods, droughts, or extreme events. The effect of climate change will also mean more complex operations, disrupted services & increased cost for water & wastewater services. In addition, climate change & disasters will result in bigger migration to urban areas, increasing the demands on urban systems.”

Pretty serious stuff, especially for poorer communities in the third world. If climate change does happen in the way scientists expect, then water will become a major issue for us as well & we won’t be happy to see run across our streets, down stormwater drains & into rivers or oceans.  Water will be far too precious a commodity for us to allow this to happen.

Farmers in NSW, Victoria & South Australia who rely on water from the Murray-Darling River system have already experienced the environmental destruction, loss of diversity & extreme difficulty growing food while having to buy & get water delivered from elsewhere.  I predict that it won’t be too many years before many of us will choose to capture rainwater for our own use because the price of turning on the tap will be prohibitive & Councils will have to address our dying water management infrastructure, again because of costs.

We are the lucky ones with numerous taps inside & outside our homes with hot & cold running clean water.  Here are some unnerving stats to finish with –

  • Every second the world’s population grows by 2 people.
  • 493 million people share their sanitation facilities.  This means something like 1 toilet for a street or neighbourhood, not 1 toilet for a household.
  • 1.4 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water.
  • Every 8 seconds a child dies from drinking dirty water.
  • The World Health Organisation says 80% of all sickness & disease worldwide is related to contaminated water.

You can read about World Water Day here – http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/

I have written about a way to capture rainwater from your roof to water the verge & street trees here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/capturing-stormwater/

A few decades ago the water of the Cooks River was safe to drink & swim in. A few Councils along the river & many community volunteers are working to restore the river for the benefit of future generations & urban wildlife. The names & contacts of local volunteer groups are in the blogroll on the left-hand side

 

A random view of the Pacific Highway, Sydney. There are just as many trees along most of its length to Hornsby.

In this post I am discussing 2 main roads: the Pacific Highway & Parramatta Road.  Travelling on either road is like travelling in different countries.  I cannot help but be astounded by the difference.

There is really no difference in the utility between the two roads except that Parramatta Road has many more shopping strips. However, I don’t see why this should mean there should be dearth of trees along its length.

The section of Parramatta Road that is under the control of Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils is ugly & getting visually worse as the years pass. The almost treeless state of Parramatta Road under the control of these 2 Councils seems to be a planning decision that was probably made decades ago & little has been done to change it.  Of course, there are other parts of this road that are just as treeless, but I am presently concerned with the section under the control of Marrickville, Leichhardt & City of Sydney Councils.

You can see the demarcation line between Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils & the City of Sydney Council by looking for the presence of street trees.  Once they start you are in City of Sydney territory. Once they stop you are in Marrickville & Leichhardt territory.

A random view of Parramatta Road at Stanmore. The Palm belongs to McDonalds car park.

Sydney City has planted quite a number of Eucalypts along their section of Parramatta Road & the trees are already looking good.  Sydney Council’s action proves it can be done.  Interestingly they planted Eucalypts, trees which some regard as dangerous because of falling branches.  Mind you, the branch die-off is a slow process & is clearly visible to the naked eye. I’d guess that Sydney City Council chose to plant Eucalypts because they grow tall & straight, grow rapidly & also flower providing food for the birds.  I’d also guess they made a decision to check on the trees occasionally & prune any branches that die off as part of general maintenance.

The Pacific Highway is filled with a variety of tall growing trees along its length, again proving that trees can exist on a main thoroughfare.  The trees don’t cause visibility problems for the traffic & they certainly help keep pedestrians safer. The trees also provide a pollution barrier to local housing by capturing particulate matter from the exhausts of passing traffic.  People who live within a block of the Pacific will have much cleaner air than those who live along or near Parramatta Road.

Parramatta Road opposite McDonalds at Stanmore looking towards the city.

It annoys me that Sydney’s Inner West of has to be exposed to more pollution, including visual pollution.   What does it take to cut out concrete & plant trees in available spaces along Parramatta Road? If Leichhardt & Marrickville Councils followed City of Sydney’s lead & planted 3-4 metre high saplings, the effect would be to instantly beautify & green the place. The trees would also have a much greater chance of survival, as they are not sitting ducks to be vandalized.  The new street trees recently planted along Glebe Point Road are proof of this.

I know money is an issue, but is losing 95% of saplings planted each season due to dying for lack of water, accidents, vandalism & the like a wise investment?  Wouldn’t it be better to plant bigger saplings which do cost more, but if watered, are more likely to survive?

Couldn’t the nearest business owner be given a complementary watering can & asked to water the tree?  Council could give them a big bright sticker to put in their window saying that they are caretakers of the street trees with much thanks from Council & the community.  Something like I am a volunteer caretaker of the street tree/s outside this business.

View of the Pacific Hwy just before Chatswood. Even in this area street trees are regularly spaced & of a tall growing species.

People notice these things.  Couldn’t community appreciation awards be given each year to those people & businesses that kept the street trees alive?  Surely this type of recognition would be good for their professional reputation because a large percentage of the community cares about green issues these days.

My dream is that once businesses catch on to the fact that shoppers spend around 11% more where there are shady trees, they will be beating down Council’s door demanding trees be planted.

Parramatta Road is also a main route south of Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Tourists travel along it daily & they will gain an impression of Sydney from this road.  As for the Princes Highway, straight out from the airport…….

The Princes is shamefully ugly.  The section from St Peters to the Cooks River always looked dreadful &, like Parramatta Road, is only getting worse.  Rockdale Council made their section look considerably better & more people-friendly by planting street trees every 3 metres along the whole length of the shopping strip.  Rockdale Council prunes & maintains these trees & although they are trees in cages, they look good.  It is the kind of care that is noticeable & makes people feel good, better connected in their communities & happier.

Trees have this extraordinary capacity to cause people to feel happier & peaceful. Research has been done regarding the effects of trees on peoples’ physical & mental health, so it is not just me banging on. 100 Tree Facts has more information regarding the benefits of trees.  https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/100-tree-facts/

Marrickville Council won’t do anything about this unless we let them know that we want more trees in areas like Parramatta Road where there is tree-poverty.  We should not need to get used to ugliness when the solution is so simple & good for us & our children. If we work or live in areas with a predominance of grey infrastructure, it will have a negative impact on our health & our quality of life.  Besides, the UN says we should be planting 14 billion trees a year across the planet if we are going to have a chance of holding back the thrust towards climate change.

Whenever I look at this photo I think of love - "He ain't heavy, he's my brother" kind of family love

I found a fabulous article by Brian Sewell: My plea to save the London tree -Everywhere the birds are nesting, but still the tree men come — surgeons they dub themselves, but butchers, despoilers, ravagers & rapists are terms that suit far better these barbarians at the garden gate. Mature trees are supposed to be inviolate, protected by preservation orders & even the most necessary & responsible pruning requires the display of notices of intent & consent from local planners, but these often useless safeguards are easily ignored.  Last week, to the north of my garden, down came a lofty eucalyptus, & to the south, a spreading Atlantic cedar, but not a drum was heard, not a funeral note, & within minutes they were altogether gone.

And further into the article – Developers fell them to crowd extra houses on a site, supermarkets to accommodate superstores, railways to keep leaves from the lines & local councils for safety reasons that are often absurd. We should cherish them & for every one felled, we should plant two.

There is a photo of the Royal Oak in Richmond Park estimated to age between 700 & 800 years old. This is amazing in itself as Oaks seldom survive past 600 years. The tree has huge split in its trunk that has got to be more than 2 metres long. Amazingly the local Council hasn’t chopped it down. They put a park bench right next to it instead. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/lifestyle/article-23838965-brian-sewell-my-plea-to-save-the-london-tree.do

To Papua New GuineaAn article from The Guardian says – The forests of Papua New Guinea are being chopped down so quickly that more than half its trees could be lost by 2021. Mostly the deforestation is done by multinational logging companies.  Satellite imaging has recorded the loss of rainforest since the 1970s.  Like many other poorer countries, Papua New Guinea says – rich countries should pay them to protect their forests as a way of tackling climate change. Personally I think this is a good idea & the only fair thing to do.  There is quite a strong movement coming from the UN to turn countries into ‘forest guardians’ rather than forest loggers. Papua New Guinea is the home to the world’s 3rd largest tropical forest so their contribution in the management of climate change is significant.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jun/03/forests.conservation

To Canada now where Trees Ontario is about to reach a total of 10 million trees planted in Ontario since 2004.  65 tree planting agency partners & over 2,000 landowners were responsible for planting the trees across the province.  The program started in 2004 when Trees Ontario and 2 agency partners planted 42,000 trees in 4 sites throughout the year. The year was so successful many other agencies joined. Six years later 65 agencies are involved, plus landowners.

In August 2007 the Ontario government started the 50 Million Trees program as part of its commitment to help fight climate change and green the province.   They plan to achieve this by 2020 just 10 years away.  Trees Ontario plans to plant 10 million trees per year by 2015 with the help of the government as part of its 50 Million Trees program.  Fantastic stuff.  http://www.treesontario.ca/news/index.php/10_million_trees

I admit I don't know what this sign means

Madagascar is home to the very precious & protected Rosewood tree. Unfortunately it is being illegally logged almost to extinction for Chinese business, who use the wood primarily to make replicas of antique furniture & musical instruments. You can see furniture made out of this wood in Sydney.  Trees with similar grain across Asia have been depleted so the forests of Madagascar are now being targeted. Estimates of the value of Rosewood trees felled over the past 12 months are $167 million or more. Serious money & without serious intervention it is highly likely the Rosewood will be logged to extinction unless people across the world decide on a policy of ethical shopping.  It is happening for coffee & chocolate, so why not Rosewood furniture, musical instruments & ornaments? http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/world/africa/25madagascar.html

In the last week of May 2010, 52 nations attended a conference in Oslo & “agreed on a non-binding framework to funnel aid promised by the rich world & set up monitoring standards to ensure money flows are based on solid results. Such frameworks are known as Redd (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation & Degradation) programmes.”

According to the UN world global deforestation is responsible for more than the CO2 caused by vehicles, trains & planes. Each year forests the equivalent to the size of England are chopped down.  tp://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/27/oslo-conference-aid-to-save-forests

In May 2010 research led by Professor Corey Bradshaw, of the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute found Australia was ranked as 7th worst in habitat conversion, 9th worst in fertilizer use & 10th worst in natural forest loss taking out overall 9th place of the 10 worst countries for environmental impact. I find this shameful. http://www.theage.com.au/environment/australias-global-footprint-one-of-the-worst-20100505-uape.html

“…since European colonisation we’ve lost over half of our forests & the ones that remain are largely fragmented, so we have done quite a bit of damage.” said Professor Bradshaw.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/05/06/2892501.htm

Casurina branch - the Cockatoos like to eat the seeds

The city of Seattle in the US is making significant changes to their urban agriculture guidelines for 2010, which is also the Year of Urban Agriculture.  I think this is of interest here, as world trends are starting to consider food-growing sources should be closer to cities because of transport costs, global warming, pollution & drought.  Seattle has a number of items in their guidelines including allowing more community gardens & urban farms in residential areas as well as on the top & sides of buildings (how exciting) & allow up to 8 female chickens per residence. http://cityfruit.org/blog/?p=883

Campus Road Community Garden, a more-than-6,000-square-foot community garden on the grounds of Brooklyn College in New York was to be paved over to make way for the expansion of an athletic field. (How this works I haven’t quite worked out). Instead a Judge blocked Brooklyn College from commencing this work & the case will go before the court on 25th June 2010.  Perhaps the community will get to keep their substantial community garden that has operated since 1997.

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/26/brooklyn-college-blocked-from-paving-garden/

In Manchester USA insurance company The Cambridge Mutual Fire Insurance Co is suing a Council for negligence. They say the Council Tree Warden & the Council were “negligent & careless because the tree was not inspected & removed before falling” on the home of residents on 6 April  2009. The Council disputes this saying they inspected the tree & arrangements were made to chop it down 2 days before it fell on the house.  Now that’s bad luck. http://www.courant.com/community/manchester/hc-manchester-tree-lawsuit-0525-20100524,0,1190967.story

Not quite related, but interesting regardless, a 29 year old woman, who had been living in the Cambodian jungle since 1989 & was rescued in 2007, has escaped her family to return back into the jungle. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/breaking-news/cambodias-jungle-woman-flees-back-to-forest/story-e6freuyi-1225872614220?from=public_rss

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