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A gut friendly story about the economic value of trees

There is more to trees than trunks, branches and leaves.  Apart from their physical make-up they perform functions that quite frankly we can’t do without.  Numerous books have been written and we have referenced in a previous blog post (The actress who has a passion for trees, 15.10.18) how actress Judi Dench has developed an understanding and appreciation of trees that some of us probably think at odds with rational thinking.  Maybe this fascination with trees is more than sentimental, more than off with the pixies stuff, maybe there is some sound science that makes trees much more valuable than simply being exploited as building materials for commerce and industry.

In, What the economy really needs more of: trees, Ross Gittins (Economics Editor, SMH, 1.01.19) writes: “To oversimplify a little, we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, whereas trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen – making them useful things to have around when we have a problem with excess carbon emissions.

But trees do far more for us than help with our greenhouse problem. For a start, they cheer us up. Academics at the universities of Melbourne and Tasmania examined 2.2 million messages on Twitter and found that tweets made from parks contained more positive content – and less negativity – than tweets coming from built-up areas.

Why are people in parks likely to be happier? Because parks help them to recover from the stress and mental strain of living in cities, and provide a place to exercise, meet other people or attend special events.”

One consequence of urbanisation and the growth of cities is the destruction of native bushland. Not only this but in many cities there are no tree planting policies that would go some way to mitigating this trend.  It can’t go on.  In the first instance we can at least give trees credit for providing valuable services with this leading to conservation orders to conserve and value what remains.

Gittins goes on to report: “There’s growing recognition of the crucial role of urban green spaces in helping reduce [these] health problems. More than 40 years of research shows that experiences of nature are linked to a remarkable breadth of positive health outcomes, including improved physical health (such as reduced blood pressure and allergies, less death from cardio-vascular disease, and improved self-perceived general health), improved mental wellbeing (such as reduced stress and better restoration), greater social wellbeing and promotion of positive health behaviours (such as physical activity).”

In so many ways we take trees for granted as if there’s an endless supply.  But as the human population/consumption grows and cities gobble up what some sadly refer to as unproductive bushland (or shit country to put it crudely), we need a plan to hang on to the green spaces we have in our midst – Munibung Hill being a prime example – and we need to ‘grow’ this and other areas to bring greenery into our scenery in local streets and neighbourhoods.  Ross Gittins backs this up, again with scienctific facts …

“But though scientists have much evidence that trees and other greenery improve our mood and health, they know less about the actual mechanisms by which this occurs. Japanese research, however, suggests that when we walk through bushland we breathe in three substances: beneficial bacteria, plant-derived essential oils and negatively-charged ions.”

Those of us who have been charged with maintaining a world fit for purpose for human habitation know that the next generation is depending on us to get the mix right.  Ross Gittins again:

“We know instinctively that “grass time” – running on it, rolling in it, throwing and catching a ball across it – is vital for the health and wellbeing of children. Particularly if they’ve been cooped up indoors, glued to a screen. But adults are no different …”

Rolling around on a backyard lawn consisting of an exotic monoculture that is artificially fertilised and requiring constant maintenance, is no subtitute for the real deal that is raw unadulterated native bushland.

For more on green infrastructure and gut-dwelling bacteria click on the link: