Victory Trees & Gardens: Complete Article
Note: There are 2 forms to this paper. This is the complete paper. There is also a condensed summary of the article.
Cost-Effective Solutions to Global Warming (Part I)
Victory Trees & Gardens: A Framework for Action
November 4, 2014
Global warming and climate change are one of the most challenging environmental problems of our day. Over the past decades there has been much controversy and debate as to whether and to what extent human induced global warming was occurring. There is now widespread scientific consensus that serious climate change is upon us. It is also clear that human activity is the primary cause of these changes through activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and agricultural practices.
A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2014) raised many dire alarms as to the high probability of the development of severe global environmental stress and life-endangering events. The report concluded that greenhouse gases were “the highest in history” and probably “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally.”
Yet despite the alarms from this respected multi-national panel and many other scientific organizations, few easily adoptable cost-effective solutions have been introduced. Global inaction rather than effective action in the face of these clear and escalating environmental threats has been the predominant response. There continues to remain widespread disagreement as to how best to proceed with this global challenge.
The purpose of this article is to propose a cost-effective reforesting solution to global warming and offers a means for putting this solution in place. The paper is designed to be a model for evaluating and organizing a framework for the introduction of desperately needed global climatic policy and response to this potential impending crisis.
The Greenhouse Effect
The “greenhouse effect” is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is essential to maintaining the temperature of the earth’s surface above freezing and sustaining life. The sun radiates energy in the form of light and other electromagnetic waves. Part of the sun’s energy is absorbed by the earth’s surface resulting in an increase in surface temperature and part is reflected back into the atmosphere (Figure 1: Scripps Institute of Oceanography, 2014). Several gases present in small amounts in the atmosphere including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide trap a proportion of the energy and this in turn increases the temperature of the earth’s surface. It is this trapping of energy by atmospheric gases that is termed the greenhouse effect.
Without the natural greenhouse gases the temperature of the earth would be approximately -18 degrees Centigrade (0 degrees Fahrenheit), far too cold for most forms of life to exist. With heat trapping gases the earth’s temperature is instead maintained at an average of 15 degrees Centigrade (60 degrees Fahrenheit). Thus it is the greenhouse gases that have allowed the many existing forms of life on earth to evolve and flourish. Levels of these gases have varied over the entire earth’s history and the temperature of the planet has fluctuated accordingly. For example, naturally occurring events such as massive volcanic eruptions have increased the levels of natural greenhouse gases dramatically in the distant past. These eruptions resulted in prolonged periods of earth warming and climate change.
Causes of Global Warming Today
Since the onset of the industrial age in the mid-1700s atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases have been increasing steadily. The discovery of vast reserves of fossil fuels including coal, oil and natural gas has provided modern societies with inexpensive energy sources to fuel industrial machines, modern forms of transportation, agricultural advances and many other conveniences. As the industrial age matured and flourished, more fossil fuels were mined and burned. Little thought was given to the possible negative global effects that might result from this process. The introduction and proliferation of modern means of transportation such as trains, automobiles and airplanes, for example, was viewed very positively and adopted globally with great enthusiasm. No significant negative environmental impacts were anticipated at the time they were developed and accepted worldwide.
Over the past several decades however, it has become increasingly clear that our reliance on fossil fuels as well as extensive global deforestation and the disappearance of CO2 absorbing vegetation is resulting in rapidly rising greenhouse gases. Thus human induced activities are in turn leading to increasing global temperatures and dramatic climactic changes. In 1958 Charles David Keeling began measuring CO2 levels at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. He was the first to call attention to the steady rise in these levels. The constant rise in CO2 over decades is easily observed in the “Keeling Curve” (Figure 2; McCarthy JJ, 2009).
Ice core samples that trap earth’s gases from the distant past may be utilized to estimate the concentrations of atmospheric gases over long periods of geologic time. They clearly demonstrate a dramatic recent rise in CO2 levels since the onset of the industrial age. The levels are now much higher than they have been over the last 800,000 years as can be seen in Figure 3 (https://bfi. Ughicago.edu/events/CC-climate). The red arrow on the graph points to the rapid and unprecedented rise in CO2 that has occurred in recent history.
Modern humans evolved between approximately 300,000 to 150,000 years ago and began to migrate out of Africa approximately 70,000 years ago. Therefore there is no historical precedent for modern human habitation with the current levels of CO2. Over the month of April 2014 atmospheric CO2 levels averaged over 400 (parts per million) ppm. It has been estimated by some scientists that CO2 levels of 350 ppm may be a “safe” level (Hansen et al., 2008) and we now far exceed that limit. There is some scientific evidence that CO2 levels have not been as high as they currently are for the last 15 to 20 million years (Tripati et al., 2009). At that time sea levels were 100 feet higher than today and there was little ice anywhere on the planet. The clear relationship between the rise in CO2 levels and earth’s surface temperature can be seen in Figure 4 (Karl et al., 2009).
Although there are several gases contributing to the greenhouse affect, CO2 accounts for the majority of the effect and has therefore has been given the most attention. The proportion that each of the gases contribute can be seen in the graph in Figure 5 (IPCC, 2007).
In order to better understand the seriously high levels of greenhouse gases that are present in the atmosphere, an analogy to an automobile temperature dial may be helpful (Figure 6). As shown on the radiator dial, our “car/earth” has been operating at CO2 levels between 200 and 300 ppm for over 800,000 years (and possibly many millions of years). All life on earth is designed for this operating environment. In only the last 250 years, since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the mid-1700s, CO2 levels have risen very rapidly to approximately 400 ppm. Our “car/earth” is now just beginning to experience the negative effects of operating
at these high levels and temperatures. We may already be past the “red line” danger level. Instead of taking action to decrease the temperatures, we are continuing to conduct activities that are increasing greenhouse gases and the temperature to even higher danger levels. The signs that we are now in the “red zone” are all about us. Storms and droughts are increasing in frequency and intensity, glaciers are rapidly melting away, sea levels are rising and temperatures are reaching new highs. These warnings are just the start of the process of earth’s adjustment to higher temperature levels. As we move further into the red danger zone, these climactic changes will accelerate. If we want to take control of the “car/earth” and stop the cycle, it is absolutely critical that we act now with effective initiatives. Without effective action the earth’s climactic buffering systems will start to fail and the process could accelerate dramatically. At that point the “car/earth” as we know will begin to “break” down and all passengers, including humans, will encounter very serious adversities and consequences.
The steady and dramatic increase in greenhouse gases since the mid-1700s is due to several factors:
• Accelerating fossil fuel use:
Humans have become increasingly dependent on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. Almost all of modern industry, agriculture, transportation and most other human activities are fossil fuel dependent. Although environmentally friendly sources of energy such as wind and solar have been increasing in popularity, fossil fuels continue to be the primary energy source fueling our modern way of life. Alternative fuels, although environmentally attractive, are still more costly and less reliable than the inexpensive and readily available fossil fuels. Some alternative power sources such as nuclear have large energy potential however are controversial due to the perceived potential for possible negative risks.
• Increased population:
The global population has increased from 1 billion in 1800 to 7 billion in 2012. The population continues to increase at a rate of approximately 1.1% per year. If this trend continues we will reach approximately 10 billion people by the end of the century. This rapid increase has resulted in increasingly scarce land and resources as well as increased demand for energy.
There has been widespread deforestation across the planet to accommodate for expanding cities and population as well as agricultural lands. The decrease in vegetation from the forests results in a diminished capacity for plants to absorb CO2 through photosynthesis.
Agricultural practices create stress on the environment in several ways. Clearing of forest areas for farms results in a decrease in the earth’s capacity to absorb CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Rice, the world’s second largest crop, emits the greenhouse gas methane from bacteria in the soil and accounts for approximately 13% of global methane (Graham, 2002). Livestock such as cows also emit methane as a result of their digestive process (Lassey, 2007). The industrialization of agricultural practices has also increased the demand and reliance on fossil fuels in the agricultural sector. Fertilizer production is energy intensive and is a significant contributor to the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (Mosier et al., 1998).
A recent 2014 Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC, 2014) report has increased the warnings about the seriousness of global warming to much higher levels than any previous reports. The following summaries and warnings were included:
• The levels of greenhouse gases are the “”the highest in history” and probably “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.”
• “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia…The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen and the concentration of greenhouse gases have increased.”
• “Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally.”
Impediments to Effective Solutions
Although there is now widespread global agreement and concern about the increasing negative effects of global warming, implementation of practical effective solutions to mitigate the problem has not been forthcoming. The reasons for this inaction despite escalating concerns are several.
The functioning of the modern world and our economies are primarily dependent on relatively inexpensive fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emitting practices. Transition to a more environmentally conscious economy will involve profound changes in our transportation, heating and cooling systems, economic as well as agricultural systems forming the foundation of modern societies. Changes that jeopardize the economic base of a community or country are naturally resisted. Unless the change can be shown to be economically neutral or advantageous, implementation will be extremely difficult to carry out until a very serious crisis emerges.
Many proposed solutions involve a significant initial cash investment. Frequently arguments are made that a small monetary investment today will result in very substantial future cost savings. However, governments, industry and individuals are often reluctant to set aside funds for these solutions. Although the public may agree that fossil fuel use should be decreased, rapid increases in gasoline prices that have been shown to decrease driving practices are immediately followed by extensive and vocal complaints by consumers. Thus cost controls are avoided due to political fall-out and resistance. There are also clear practical concerns including large government deficits that impede effective action. Political and scientific disagreements concerning the best and most cost effective approach take time to work through and often result in inaction and calls for more study.
• Inequality of burdens and costs:
All proposed solutions impact disproportionately on some countries and industries more than others. For example, although preservation of the rain forests is clearly essential to climate stabilization, these areas continue to be cleared for agricultural usage, increased living space and timber resources. Countries in tropical climates are often poor and not willing or politically unable to stop development. The United States and other affluent countries in more temperate climates have stressed the urgent need to preserve these areas. Yet these same affluent countries continue to deforest their own territories. Deforestation in the United States, for example, is often interpreted positively. Clear cutting of forests for new large and expanding shopping malls or suburban housing is not interpreted as deforestation but as a means of generating new needed jobs and resources for communities. This double standard makes it hard for the United States to impartially argue for wilderness preservation in other parts of the world.
• Government versus individual and community needs:
Although many governments have passed environmentally friendly legislation, these laws are often difficult or impossible to enforce. Harvesting of increasingly valuable and scarce timber in forests is often done by individuals or small groups despite government declarations and prohibitions. As long as there is a profitable market for this timber, the trees will continue to be harvested despite environmental costs or government mandates. Setting a forest fire to clear cut trees is fast, easy and effective for an individual farmer or community seeking to develop agricultural land but is very difficult to trace or stop.
• Global vs. National Orientation:
With the introduction of technological advances such as the Internet and high speed transportation, the world has been transformed into a truly global community. However the political structures required to cope with the new global challenges are still evolving. A handful of environmentally committed nations will not be effective in solving this global problem. Commitment to global action is often carried out by committees utilizing persuasion and logic. There is usually little real little practical means to enforce these declarations. Therefore inaction and indecision is often the result.
Framework for Effective Solutions
Given the state of increasing worldwide threat and lack of effective action, there appears to be little that can be done to rapidly manage this increasingly critical situation. In order for solutions to be widely adopted it is suggested that the following criteria for effective interventions be met if possible:
• Revenue generating or very low cost:
The best solutions are “win-win” situations, helping the environment at the same time that communities and individuals enjoy benefits in lower costs, improved economics or a better life style. If jobs are generated from switching to ecologically friendly environments, the likelihood of adoption increases dramatically. Alternatively, solutions interfering with job or wealth creation, on the other hand are very difficult to implement and result in significant resistance.
• Equal burden:
Distributing the costs or burden of the solution should be as fair and equitable as possible across as many political as well as geographical areas as possible.
• Clear benefit to the individual and community:
If the individual or local community obtains clear and relatively immediate benefit from an intervention there is much greater likelihood that it will be adopted.
• Low potential for harm:
Many possible solutions such as increased nuclear energy are perceived by some as essential and by others as extremely risky. Solutions such as these are bound to be very difficult to put into place due to the political controversy and debate. If risks are minimal however, there is much more likelihood that interventions will be adopted.
• Rapid results and ease of introduction:
Many solutions, although clearly essential to long-term mitigation, take many years to study and implement. Rapid and ease of introduction of some interventions is essential to start the process. As an example, if a new energy saving device was developed for the home that was very inexpensive and easy to install it would be adopted quickly. If it was expensive with a several year payoff or if a consultant must be called in for installation, it would be adopted much more slowly.
• Local community endorsement:
Individuals often rely on friends, neighbors and local experts for information and decisions to act. If there is widespread local community support and agreement about the best way to proceed, there is a much greater probability that the individual will make the decision to change behavior.
• Presence of positive effects regardless of beliefs or affiliations:
The climate debate has often been marked by acrimonious political altercations about the reality, cause or extent of the problem. Interventions producing benefits regardless of belief or political affiliation are the most effective. When politicized and controversial, individuals often take positions that are in opposition to ecological change as their political beliefs and party loyalty outweighs their desire to act in a more ecological sustainable fashion.
Cost-Effective Solutions to Climate Change:
Reforesting Our World
The interventions delineated below are specifically designed to be cost effective and relatively easy to implement with a low potential for side effects.
1. Reforesting Lawns in Parks
Lawns have become the standard of the American household and urban environment, dominating the landscape of our houses, parks and roadways. Although lawns do absorb CO2 through photosynthesis, this is offset by the use of gasoline powered lawn mowers, fertilizers and pesticide application (Morris & Bagby, 2008). Fertilizers and pesticides require significant energy to produce and fertilizers release greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide has 300 times the greenhouse effect as compared to CO2. Nitrous oxide is not usually the focus of attention since the overall concentration of this gas is much less (Kaye et al., 2004). Fertilizers and pesticides can have very negative impact on health, water quality and wildlife.
There continues to be some debate as to whether the costs of maintaining lawns outweigh their carbon absorbing capacity. However, there is absolutely no question that natural environments such as forests and wild grasslands are vastly more effective at absorbing CO2 compared to lawns. As shown in Figure 7, forests and trees are vertically organized and photosynthesis takes place from the top of the trees all the way down to the supporting vegetation on the ground (Montgomery and Chazdon, 2001; Terborgh, 1985). The CO2 absorbing capacity of the hundreds to thousands of leaves on the trees, the moss often growing on the sides of trees as well as the bushes, grass and bushes growing below vastly outstrip the CO2 absorbing capacity of thin single layer of horizontally well manicured grass.
Natural vertical environments also do not have the external costs in the form of fertilizers and pesticides. These areas also provide many more varied and extensive habitats for wildlife that are under increasing environmental stress due to disappearing natural vegetation. The predominance of lawns in our urban and suburban landscapes is obvious and easily observable with even a cursory examination. I will use several examples from Westchester County, a suburban region located just north of New York City. Harbor Island Park is a 44 acre park and the analysis will focus section of the park well imaged in Google Maps. As can be observed in Figures 8 and 9, there is a large central manicured lawn that dominates the park. There is a small strip along the shore that is called the
“Nature Preserve” as well as a small forested area as shown in Figure 10. The nature preserve comprises 13% of the park (these measurements are approximate and based on Google Maps aerial views) and contains a wide array of vegetation and wildlife despite the small size. There are educational posters that describe the rich habitats in the “preserve.” The forested area comprises 12% of this area of the park. Therefore, overall 25% of the park is “natural” and 75% is manicured lawn. To maintain the lawn large multi-blade gasoline powered mowers are utilized for regular cutting of the grass. Harbor Island Park was
deforested and designed in an era when there was not even a thought given to global warming or environmental stress. If the lawn/natural vegetation were reversed, with 75% of the park left natural as a large “nature preserve” and 25% used for trails and lawns the CO2 absorbing capacity of even this small park would rise dramatically and rapidly. Within months of allowing the park to return to a more natural state both environmental and cost benefits would be accruing. In addition to the positive environmental effects, there would be a dramatic decrease in the cost from the regular lawn care by large lawn mowers. There would also be much less need for the application of potentially toxic and energy consuming pesticides and fertilizers. These chemicals leach not only into the groundwater but also into the adjacent Long Island Sound. Money is then required to rid the coastal Sound waters of these toxins.
A better forested park would also serve another important function. Forested areas offer a barrier to hurricanes, storms and sea swells that are expected to increase in frequency as the global temperature rises. Figure 11 shows a side by side comparison of houses adjacent to the park. These residences are located several hundred feet from the Sound. The houses
on the left, behind the forested area, are offered significant shielding from winds and high water. The houses on the right have no such natural protection. They would be exposed to the full force of the storms. Through the process of extensively deforesting our local communities throughout the country, a major protective storm barrier has been eliminated. One might argue that trees are dangerous as they could fall on power lines and houses. This potential for damage is real but can easily be addressed by the judicious planting of small to medium size trees, more closely planted together. Larger trees, if desired, could be planted away from areas that could be potentially damaged by them.
The cost saved at Harbor Island Park from decreased mowing and chemical applications could be shifted to a more eco-sustainable redesign and maintenance of the park. If planned correctly with an integrated natural design, the beauty and attractiveness of the area could potentially be enhanced without compromising recreational areas. One might argue that lawns are more attractive or provide a better view of the harbor and Long Island Sound. Even if this were the case, a landscaping approach that ignores the reality of today’s environmental crisis is not a sustainable viewpoint. We can no longer afford the heavy environmental cost paid by the maintenance of these extensive manicured lawns any longer.
It is easy to find many other urban parks around the nation that follow the same lawn predominant design pattern as Harbor Park. The Washington Monument, Ellipse Area and White House are all surrounded by
expansive lawns (Figure 12). In contrast, a much more environmentally friendly development scheme can be seen in Manhattan’s Central Park. The aerial view of the park in Figure 13 demonstrates the well integrated blending
of extensive trees and natural vegetation along with recreational areas and lawns. A pedestrian view of one of the Central Park walkways demonstrates the density of trees in one particular area (Figure 14). The contrast between
the Harbor Park and Central Park designs is striking. Central Park is designed to be user friendly but offers much more natural habitat and greenery. It would be hard to argue that the Central Park designs are not attractive and the integrative design is certainly more respectful of the natural environment. Although this particular walkway appears to have a combination of manicured lawn and trees, there are many areas of the park that have been left to grow completely naturally.
2. Reforesting Houses and Community Lawns
The same lawn predominance pattern observed at the Harbor Island Park can also be easily observed in urban and suburban houses. A survey was conducted of numerous streets of Westchester County NY, the county that Harbor Island Park is situated. It is immediately obvious upon inspection that lawns are once again heavily favored over trees, bushes and layered foliage. On one typical street used for this survey there were 34 houses, each with a significant lawn in front. The lawn predominance is well demonstrated in the Google Map photograph in Figure 15. Houses on this block generally have between 0-2 trees on the lawns in front of the house.
The outside grass strip which is present along the entire block and maintained by the town has only 6 trees on the 34 strips (17.6%). There is a capacity of a large number of trees on each of these strips if small to medium size trees are planted. The county is known for its dogwood trees, Japanese maples, forsythia bushes and other foliage. Many of these blossom in the spring, just as the house selling season starts in earnest. More ornamental trees and bushes would not only help with global warming but could confer economic benefits to the community in potentially increasing property values.
One need only go to the end of this block to observe a house overflowing with CO2 sequestering trees as shown in the Google map image in Figure 16. This single house has
15 trees on one side and 7 trees around the corner, for a total of 22 trees in all. The number of trees in this one house is more than 3 times all the trees on the outside lawn strips on the block maintained by the town. The trees in this house are well manicured and offer a unique and attractive look in addition to their CO2 absorbing role. They also provide privacy to the household as well as noise reduction and a pollution barrier to the passing road traffic.
3. Reforestng Highways and Byways
The nation’s highways also show interesting lawn patterns. The 333 mile (537 kilometer) divided Interstate Highway 87 in NY State is utilized as an arbitrary example. There is often extensive room for vegetation in the center strip between the roads as well as on the sides of the highway. It is immediately obvious on inspection that there is a random distribution of manicured lawns alternating with forested areas. At times there is clearly a need for lawns based on safety and road maintenance issues. However very frequently there appears to be an arbitrary “on-off” pattern that appears to be a result of design preference or varying highway regulations at the time the road was constructed. This “on-off” switch is demonstrated in the Google map image in Figure 17. Many areas
have small islands of trees interspersed with lawns in a seemingly random way as shown in Figure 18. The Google Map photograph in Figure 19 demonstrates an area where there does not appear to be any difference in the size or ability to sustain natural vegetation as the center abruptly switches from manicured lawn to forest strip. There is also a side manicured lawn outside of the guard rail. Since it is outside the guard rail there are no issues of
safety. Design preference again appears to be the issue. One can observe in the distance on the right that the side lawn disappears after the white speed marker. This same striking pattern lawn predominance design can frequently be seen on some exit ramps as well (Figure 20). These highway center lawns devoid of trees often go on for many miles without interruption. The potential, therefore, for reforestation on this single highway is very
extensive. The amount of maintenance and regular cutting of the lawns as well as the need for fertilizer and pesticides would decrease dramatically. Many millions of miles of roadways have extensive lawns throughout the nation as well as globally. Substantial redesign of these roadways to a more natural state could result in very significant global reforestation as well as extensive government cost savings.
Barriers to Action
There are numerous initiatives for reforestation of the urban landscape by major organizations such as the US Forest Service and US Department of Agriculture (e.g., Urban Forests and Climate Change; Climate Change Resource Center http://www.fs.usda.gov/ccrc/topics/urban-forests ), university academic departments (e.g., Urban and Community Forestry Program; University of Florida http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/urbanforestry/program_objectives.html ) as well as major municipalities (e.g., NYC Million Trees Initiative www.milliontreesnyc.org and City of Dallas Arborists http://www.dallascityhall.org/arborist/Fund.html ). Yet these initiatives have not had the wide-scale global recognition and impact needed to develop truly meaningful change and climate change.
Why has an eco-friendly and could potentially cost-saving initiative money not developed into a widespread global movement? If only the reforestation of the highways were addressed the economic savings to government agencies and environmental benefits could be very substantial. Yet these desperately needed actions are not taking place on a large scale. This is a central issue for climate change initiatives. If seemingly straightforward beneficial changes like these have not been implemented with so many organizations advocating for change, how can needed more complex and potentially costly initiatives be enacted?
There are many psychological and structural barriers to action that take have been identified inhibiting individual, community and societal actions from occurring (Baron J. 2006; Newell & Pitman, 2010). In a study utilizing focus groups on climate change there was a tendency of individuals to externalize the cause, blaming the problem on governments or other agencies (Stoll-Kleemanna S, 2001). Participants also had doubts regarding the effectiveness of personal action on future climate change. Gifford (2011) identified seven psychological barriers to change which he called the seven dragons of inaction. Among these barriers were limited cognition and understanding of the problem, perceived risks of change, conflicting ideological world views, sunken costs and behavioral momentum, discounting of expert opinions, positive but inadequate behavioral changes and comparisons with others.
The increasingly dire global warming alerts are tending to produce anxiety, fear and concern without producing the needed effective ameliorating actions by individuals, communities and government. Community support and agreement is crucial to widespread concerted action, and concerted community action is difficult to organize. Furthermore, few concrete solutions are offered to the individual other than driving less, recycling more and the like.
Although at times messages of fear will motivate people, if overwhelming they may be dismissed or minimized (O’Neill and Nicholson-Cole, 2009). Nonthreatening imagery and icons linking to the individuals’ everyday emotions, concerns and experiencing tend to be more effective means of motivating the individual to action and making changes. Psychologically it is very difficult for an individual to listen to or deal effectively with a threat when no solution is available. Instead of taking the alerts as a call to action, the public tends to take a fatalistic view that nothing can be done except waiting for government action. If threatening messages continue they are often screened out in order to minimize anxiety.
Effective community mobilization initiatives should include the following:
• An easy to understand message of a threat or concern
• An empowering and rallying message
• A sense of hope that something can be done to help to limit or neutralize the threat with actions
• An easy to understand action plan that the individual and/or local community can carry out
• Minimal costs in money and time
• Clear benefits that may accrue to the individual and/or community
• A sense of achievement, pride and group cohesiveness if the action is taken
• Encouragement of individual and community ideas and input to advance the program to new and more extensive levels
A very successful historical initiative fits these criteria very well. During World War I and II there was an urgent need for increased food production to feed the troops abroad. Household members were asked to start their own “Victory Garden” (Figure 21). The campaign was enormously successful with a very high participation rate, providing for 30-40% of vegetable production in the US during the Second World War.
By calling this reforesting initiative “Victory Trees & Gardens” the success of the wartime Victory Gardens is recalled. Instead of vegetable gardens, the focus would be on planting eco-friendly trees and gardens. The proposed logo for Victory Trees and Gardens is depicted in Figure 22. A person in the form of a “V” shape is balancing the various ecological and life systems or Earth, Sky and Water. Surrounding these are the Plants and Animals that depend on the integrity of these earth systems for survival.
A very small action, such as the planting of a single small “Victory Tree” or shrub could be labeled as contributing to the reforesting cause. The individual is thereby empowered to easily become actively engaged in the fight against global warming. For a movement such as this to have substantial impact a regional and then country wide initiative would have to develop. This would then form the core by which a global initiative could be launched. What is required is a unifying framework that includes the broadest range of people and organizations. Since there are many significant organizations already involved in urban greening and reforestation, therefore the mobilizing infrastructure for this to occur is already in place. Widespread endorsement by major opinion and community leaders is essential.
There are several ways that individuals and communities could be motivated and involved to start planting Victory Trees and Gardens. Communities could hold contests for the best Victory Gardens for example. People could plant or donate a Victory Tree in the name of a child that was born, a child’s birthday or the loss of a loved one. Each child in an elementary class could plant a Victory Tree or Shrub on the lawn of the school or surrounding community, starting a nature preserve that they can watch developing over the years. To prevent resistance over job loss from employees and unions involved in lawn care, workers could be reassigned other needed community projects including the care of emerging nature preserves and natural habitats.
Summary and Conclusions
This paper focused on a single solution to mitigate climate change and global warming in urban and suburban reforestation. It is the first paper in a series on cost effective initiatives to deal with global warming by EcoAlliances.org.
The following factors were delineated.
• Human induced global warming and serious climactic change is now upon us. We are rapidly moving into uncharted waters as greenhouse gases are at levels that have not been observed for hundreds of thousands if not many millions of years.
• If we continue with our current ways of life, life on earth as we know it may not be able to survive the coming escalating climactic changes.
• Despite the warnings, widespread effective global action is not taking place and greenhouse gases continue to rise. Global inaction rather than effective mitigating solutions is the predominant response pattern.
• Effective and extensive actions are desperately needed now if we are going to avoid severe global impacts.
• Urban and suburban lawns dominate our landscape – from individual homes, to parks and highways. This is often the result of design preference and was carried out by deforestation in an era when the potential negative environmental impacts were not considered.
• By judiciously planting more trees and bushes and letting some portions of these areas return to their natural state, the capacity to absorb CO2 can be dramatically increased over that absorbed by lawns. In areas left to grow naturally there would be a decreased need for potentially toxic fertilizers and pesticides.
• In many cases, the initiative could save communities money now allocated to lawn care and these savings and benefits could start to accrue rapidly. These savings might be particularly significantly in highway lawn maintenance.
• There will be some costs in some areas, but the costs could be offset by cost savings in other areas or kept low.
• There are many major organizations and communities throughout the world the already advocating for increased urban greenery. Therefore a global advocacy infrastructure is in place.
• Despite all these organizations calling for urban reforestation, these initiatives have not expanded to the needed globally coordinated movement required for significant impact.
• Numerous barriers to action were identified and addressed including ease of implementation, rewards to communities, political division among many others.
• In order to develop a unifying theme and movement, it is suggested that a theme such as “Victory Trees and Gardens” be utilized. This recalls the previously extremely successful World War I and II “Victory Gardens” initiatives.
• To have significant impact regional initiatives must expand to national and then global action.
• This model is offered as a framework by which other initiatives may be analyzed and effective critically needed global initiatives be instituted.
As storms and droughts increase in frequency and intensity, glaciers melt away, sea levels rise and temperatures reach new highs the global climate change crisis is now just beginning to unfold before us. There is little effective global action in face of these steadily rising greenhouse gases. Without effective action, the many unpredictable and severe global climate changes will continue to rise. These changes will be costly, severe and unpredictable.
What is desperately needed if we are going to survive these threats is a framework for global leadership, coordination and intervention to enact initiatives that are fair, cost-effective and relatively easily implemented. The impediments to global action must be identified and vigorously addressed if the global change that is essential will occur. The world is dependent on fossil fuels in almost all spheres of modern life and adaptation and technological advances to address this dependence in a safe and globally accepted manner will be a challenging undertaking. Without effective coordinated action, not only will there be staggering economic costs and political unrest, but the existence of life on this planet as it exists today is at risk.
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