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Trees Go to Root of Urban Problems

July 15, 1990

If Joan Milke Flores and Gloria Molina are representative of the L.A. City Council's understanding of the importance of trees to our urban environment, then we are in serious trouble.

Trees are more important to all of us than we apparently realize. Few things offer us so much for so little. Trees offer shade from hot summer sun and harmful radiation due to the ozone depletion problem. Shade can cut cooling costs up to 40%. Trees can also lower heating bills by acting as windbreaks. Trees help combat "urban heat islands," which is the heat-gain in cities due to a concentration of buildings, traffic, and dark, paved surfaces. Up to 10% of urban electric demand is spent cooling buildings to compensate for this heat-gain. On a more global perspective, trees help reduce the "greenhouse effect" by replacing carbon dioxide (spewed into our atmosphere by cars, industries, etc.) with oxygen, which we can't live without.

So dollar for dollar, we need to nourish and love the trees we already have. In addition, we need to plant many more of them. We must plan ahead for our oxygen supplies and reduction of electricity use which is produced by burning fossil fuels.

The tree counting project is to help this urban area know where the trees are, and how to maintain them on a regular basis so they can provide all of the benefits enumerated above. An urban forest needs to be well-managed. Good management needs data. The tree counting project provides needed data.

Flores said if the trees in the whole city couldn't be counted, then "they shouldn't do any of the city." Molina said, "I think it is more important to count police officers than it is to count trees . . ." And in the meantime, the city heats up, our oxygen supply needs help, and there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

I suggest an intensive course for the L.A. City Council in how to increase our oxygen supply, how to reduce electric use by greater dependence on a thriving and well-nourished urban forest, and how to think beyond mere politics.


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