Photo depicting a view of a cedar tree forest's canopy from below.

OPINION | Why Caring for Trees Is So Important in Urban Environments

by Cedar Bushue

I have my own tragic experience which attests to the devastation a city can go through if there are not large amounts of tree canopies. When I was in AmeriCorps NCCC during the spring of 2013, I was sent to help with Hurricane Sandy disaster relief. I saw vast amounts of urban sprawl and a complete lack of meaningful tree canopy, both downtown and along the residential neighborhoods by the coast I helped. Since that experience, I have since become increasingly more interested in the benefits trees provide and have recently been helping out a tree doctor. 

Trees are very important, particularly in residential areas. A dense tree canopy provides cooling to the sidewalks during summer months, which are now hotter due to climate change. 

Trees purify our air and improve our moods, making them essential to both our physical and mental health. In winter, deciduous trees shed their leaves, suspending some of those benefits, which is why a healthy base of coniferous trees are also necessary within the urban forest. More trees in our urban settings would help create more jobs (particularly more trade jobs) that would support the economy, while also helping to save lives from pollution. 

Selfish homeowners make the argument that trees block or “spoil their view.” There are many reasons for homeowners to have their trees pruned instead of getting rid of them. Mature trees help drive down crime rates (by increasing mental health of residents as mentioned before), increase property values, shrink utility bills, and bring more business to the local area. 

There are even more ways that caring for trees can save people and governments money. Trees play a critical part in decreasing the severity of natural disasters, which lowers the cost of post-disaster repairs. The lack of trees makes for more severe natural disasters, such as mudslides and flooding, both of which are less severe in areas with more trees. 

Having diverse trees in an ecosystem also results in biodiversity, which is important because having a diverse array of species helps keep the ecosystem and food chain in balance. Having a diverse array of species also makes it less destructive if one species starts being harmed more by natural factors. We see this with our agriculture fixation on just a few specific products by corporate agriculture. If you plant just a few crops and something such as disease or pests affects them, it will be much more harmful than it would have been if you would have had a diverse array of crops planted. 

Trees are important to our survival. If we want to survive the coming climate catastrophe, we need our trees. The bigger and more mature the tree, the better, as these are better protectors, especially in flood zones. I was at a community forest conference in downtown Seattle, where it was shown just how many job opportunities and how much education young people get from trees. Trees are central to our survival, to our air, and to our protection as well as our food sources.

The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.

Cedar Bushue is the author of a self-help book on living on the autism spectrum called “Depression: My Battle Through Hell and How I Became Stronger” as well as a third-generation resident of South Park. As a Special Olympics athlete, Bushue also made a short film on basketball, which won the Spirit Award in the 2020 Georgetown Super-8 Film Festival. Bushue is a community advocate and a member of the Duwamish River Accountability Group (DRAG).

📸 Featured Image: Photo by blew_s/

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