Cities Need Trees

Posted on January 30, 2020

When I see articles and protests that are attacking the agriculture sector where animals are kept in cages and not allowed to free range, it seems fascinating to apply this theory to the human race from the viewpoint of where people live. People are crammed into cities.

Cities have been around since the origin of time. The first city built was named Enoch and was built by Cain. We all know who he was! I sometimes wonder whether this has been passed on down the passage of time?

55% or the majority of humans dwelling on earth are living in cities and this will quickly become 70% in the next few decades. Apartment building living is not unlike being a caged animal in a factory farm. Thousands of people stacked on top of each other, complete with surveillance cameras tracking their movements. These people would think that life is normal living like this.

Mankind was not made to live in cities of cages built from concrete and steel. This is not the natural environment. Mankind is supposed to be a free-range species who lives in a garden and needs space. Modern architecture and city planning includes the need for green spaces and high density living is a lot less “cage like” now because of this.

As Mankind has adapted to living in the convenience of the city designs there is still that within our DNA which doesn’t fully cope with these concrete surroundings. Our surrounding environment will shape our behavior and go on to form our characters. The emotional outcome of this hard landscape, if left to an uncontrolled mind, can bring out in some, aggression, anger and crime. These concrete jungle neighbourhoods are often the lower socio-economic communities and hence the vicious circle of life associated with living like this.

Can trees help?

Numerous studies have been carried out around the globe and especially in some of the industrial cities in the USA, ascertaining whether there is a link to crime levels with the density of green space within the cities. The results are quite remarkable.

  • In New Haven, Connecticut a 10% increase in tree canopy was associated with a 14% decrease in property crimes and a 15% decrease in violent crime.
  • Similar results were found in Baltimore, with a 12% drop in all outdoor crimes for each 10% increase in canopy.
  • A public housing development in Chicago had 48% fewer property crimes and 56% fewer violent crimes in or around buildings with more greenspace.

Unfortunately like the predator’s movements of the animal kingdom there is a downside…

  • … some criminals are benefited from vegetation. Automobile thieves in Washington, DC were more likely to target cars parked in areas with higher vegetation so their activities could be conceived.
  • The relationship between trees and crime was considered as early as 1285 by King Edward I when he ordered property owners to clear highway edges of trees in an attempt to reduce robberies.

A key factor to take note of when considering the increase of green spaces in neighborhoods is the people becoming stakeholders of their community. They tend to own and protect the green space. The communities will meet and mix in the green spaces and become better aware of each other. Studies have proved that criminals are more likely to get caught in communities that show involvement with parks and reserves.

Trees are our friends as they protect us from negative behavior. We need to look after and promote far more urban planting and green spaces for people to clear their minds. Creating green spaces in our cities has so many tangible benefits:

  • Visual
  • Social
  • Environmental
  • Economical
  • Emotional

Kauri Park is Growing and Greening New Zealand and by doing so is reducing crime and the cost to control crime.