tv Urban Forests CSPAN February 25, 2017 4:59pm-5:58pm EST
>> special science conversation and humanities seminar. i also welcome you this morning heartily from my cohost, brian boone and charles zimmerman. my name is vanessa summers, coordinator of the humanities, special research division set up to stimulate critical thinking at the intersection of science and the humanities and what better subject to bring science and humanity together.
to discuss science and society to study the deeper relationship that people always had with trees through the ages, as meeting points, object of the light, places of peace and well-being. everyone here, i am sure, will have their own favorite tree. think about your favorite tree. what better place to speak of urban forests, famous as this place is for its unique 68 acres of forest, the old-growth forest that the last remnants of the 17th-century woodlands that once blanketed this whole area, this region on the east. the same words where the indians hunted, some of the very trees standing. this is also the reason the gardens were created here in the first place in the middle of the
bronx and what better person, what better person, to speak about the wide-ranging natural history of the trees in american cities than our speaker of the day, jill jonnes. dell living in baltimore, she lived in new york city and went to columbia university school of journalism and ever since, writing extremely interesting and inspiring books. a monk which conquering gotham. empires of light and south bronx rising. she was named national endowment for the humanities scholar and of interest to us is she is also the founder of the baltimore
tree trust. what more is there to see? please help me in welcoming jill jonnes. jill jonnes. [applause] >> nice book by the way. >> thank you so much. it is such an honor to be here and also just to say thank you again to the many people at the garden who were incredibly helpful to me as i was working on this book over many years with one thing i would like to say is my background amid so many scholars, phd in american history. that has been what informed any of my books. one thing i do find out is which way this goes forward, this way?
okay. all right. so urban forests, many people say, seems like an oxymoron. this is really the answer and many of you here would know that most people never heard of the concept of an urban forest, that is honestly why i wrote this book and this is so important to our future as citizens largely living in cities. street trees, park trees, private property. this got going and i imagine many of you are familiar with andrew jackson downing. and public horticulturalist.
and extremely influential -- i read you what he had to say. of ancestors found it necessary to set cutdown vast forests, it is all the more needful their descendents plant trees, the first duty of an inhabitant of forlorn neighborhoods is to use all possible influence to have the streets planted with trees and for downing, a terrible-looking street in baltimore and as the country to urban eyes. we are having a bit of a problem with the mike. for downing, nothing better than epitomized what a town should look like, for newhaven. after the civil war, these trees have been in the ground for a long time. downing was such a proselytizer for urban trees, he died at
quite a young age, 36 in 1852, and during a terrible steamboat accident on the hudson. after the civil war, a whole new group of evangelists emerged as a sergeant, the ultimate boston prominent who created in 1872, very autocratic head, and he wrote many important multi-volume works about american tree species, something he wrote that charms, and frustrations of the tree world is how much things don't change with how cyclical they are.
and to the true beauty and native trees which appears to be peculiar to us as a nation which if you are looking at the sergeant he is in front of that most non-native ornamental cherry and one of the big goals or missions was to -- to bring back plants that could be introduced to american landscapes. and hard lament, very wrong. and the davey tree expert company, this is the man who is one of my favorite people in my book. he was trained as a horticulturalist in england which did not include being taught how to read and write. he emigrated to kent, ohio and as a young man he taught himself
to read and write. he was an extraordinary person, very passionate, so he became superintendent of standing rock cemetery in kent where he so rejuvenated the trees that he became known as the tree doctor and his own reaction to what was going on was appalled at the senseless waste of trees. they were treated almost like an enemy that had to be destroyed. the attitude was all plants die, so what is different about a 3? his other big bugaboo if you look to the right, trees that were trimmed were made to look like hat racks by local butchers and this is all about the utilities and this is a fight that goes on to this day. drive down the road and people hack the trees and invariably hired by the local utility. he was really visionary and he wrote this wonderful book called
the tree doctor which is very blog like. he trained himself to be a terrific photographer, went out of take a photo to make a point and he would write various comments. one of his big lament was just the failure to properly plant trees and care for them and one of his essays was the calamity of cleveland, all about how they goofed up. the next person who was a significant force was j sterling morton who invented arbor day in 1872 as a treeplanting holiday but it never went anywhere until 1882 in cincinnati when the local school superintendent rebranded as a school children's holiday at the first meeting of the american forrester congress
which was something about clearcutting the arboreal forests here. what you see here is eden park with 8000 schoolchildren planting trees and they initiated the presidential grove which goes on to this day. i went to visit it and interestingly the one president whose trees they could never keep alive were richard nixon's and they are on the fourth tree. the rest of them, i asked when i last talked to the person, what is obama getting? we don't know yet. he has to let us know. one of the things unique about arbor day, a very american holiday because arbor day looks forward, devoted to the happiness and prosperity of the future so it was a very obvious way of looking at the world.
the other person i like to include is eliza signaler who was an amazing victorian author, foreign correspondent, traveled widely and in 1885 her brother was assigned to yokohama as us consul and went to visit him just in time for the japanese cherry blossom festival which he had never seen and remember america doesn't have japanese ornamental cherries except the rare one in a place like the arboretum. just to give you an idea how she felt about it i will read you what she had to write. in the april sunshine, better still by moonlight, by the poet's pale pure light of don, the blooming cherry tree is the most ideally, wonderfully beautiful tree that nature has to show and its short-lived glory makes it more keen and
poignant. having experienced the bliss of cherry trees and the festivals, she returns to washington, washington beautify a raw stretch of land, planting with hundreds if not thousands of japanese cherry trees, happens to be the bally wick of the federal superintendent of public buildings and grounds, this person was always a west teco graduate and civil engineer appointed a new by each president and went in 1885, she got nowhere. the whole treeplanting movement was embraced, cities began planting trees.
far and away, we planted a tree, in 1905 planting an arbor day tree with kids looking out which and to the schoolchildren in the united states, what he had to say in small part to exist as a nation to prosper as a state and live as a people we must have trees. part of the treeplanting is part and parcel, and you can see what it meant in cities, the other part of this why people embrace this and city officials being very enthused planting trees because trees also reviewed serving an important aspect of public help.
the cities are hot and the trees are one of the few ways you can bring down temperature. cities are filled with horses and wandering pigs and chickens so other droppings are going up into the air, the trees also really help settle the dust. a healthy thing to be inhaling or breathing so trees, they viewed trees as something you want around you as a way to mitigate the environmental hazards. you notice here that cherry trees have arrived in washington. if you look at the date, 1925, the trees, there may be 10 or 12 years old. a lot of these began in 1885,
she got nowhere until 1909 when the taft administration came in and there first lady nelly taft became her ally and in fact there was an original shipment. by this time the japanese government was very onboard and had thrown the thousands of cherry trees and send them whereupon they became enmeshed in this political feud i describe in my book at the first 2000 trees were all burned publicly on the grounds of the washington monument and the japanese were very good-natured saying you have a history of destroying cherry trees, george washington, didn't he do that? they sent another 3000 cherry trees and those did get planted in 1912. i mentioned this because i think anytime you want to do something it has a really classic consequence, it often takes a long time and in the case of 27
years. i say that to encourage everyone who gets involved in this. tree time is different than other kinds of time. long. they were embraced and 117,000 young americans died which the same group you saw for 1882 on arbor day they proposed these young men and a few young women who had been lost were honored with memorial 3 planting and they were stunned at the way this swept the nation and to a greater extent these memorials have been forgotten but if you look back you will find there are a lot of trees planted all over your city for this and american forrester he had this to say about that.
the trees were marked to be making the cities just as those men marked the making of the world. even as we have this very successful tree evangelism, cities getting planted up, we are also having the first eco-disaster which is the loss of the american chestnut. since i am here at the botanical garden i wanted to show this picture of william alonso mural because he was here and the man who identified the chestnut plate and became quite famous for that because he also was the very rare voice, with distressed politicians and tree lovers that was essentially no point of any money to contain chestnut flights because it was a windblown fungus and wiped out
trees so quickly so you would have a healthy huge american chestnut and on these grounds there were 2000 american chestnut that they were gone in a few years. and the parks in its range, somewhat north of new york and into the appellations, all these cities, new york, baltimore, washington, chestnuts, and a significant loss and in the woods which is a keystone species. interesting 0, you'd to be quite a fourth at the garden and ran the botanical garden when nathaniel britton was doing
another thing, referred to himself as the naturalist in his memoir and somehow after world war i it went off the rails, and rediscovered by fellow -- put him in a corner office, the mycology of florida. american cities were planted up but mainly planted up with american elms, take any abuse and come up really high, not interfering with traffic, and also see how beautiful they are.
i am proud. i took this photo that i took it in sacramento where they were able to save a lot of the trees by injecting them. how do people think about the elm? when you came into anytown, the landscape changed. you entered into this kind of forest with hundreds of arches, the shadows changed. everything seemed very reverent. there was a certain serenity and calmness and as the elves came down started to notice the severity of this. before i finished that i want to point out many cities and villages had these films that were historic and had all kinds of emotional, historical
resonance for people. this is the biggest elm in america after world war ii, dutch elm shows up in the 1930s and works its way to the west coast in california. there was a lot of planting went to what people were saying. you notice the severity of things, wires and utility poles, cracks in the hot pavement no longer bathed in shadows. this was unlike the american chestnut, in the southeast and chestnuts were not street trees. it was the ultimate street tree and loads of them in the parks too so their loss was significant and it happened in
many places even as the cities themselves are having trouble meaning gathering everyone into the suburbs, cities didn't have the financing that they needed and so as you lost these trees and as the reason for trees that historic reason for trees had kind of disappeared, meaning you now had air conditioning and modern medicine, so what was it that you were going to say to city managers at a time of great financial stringency, why should they plant trees? there is this nice circle of life, which is 100 years after the 1 cincinnati for street conference, there is another one. and this issue of how do we
replant the cities and how do we persuade people they want to do this. so forest service, these scientists embedded universities, had a foot in both camps. we knew nothing about urban forests, it was harvested for timber and we were going to need to know many about urban forests to persuade this new generation of mayors and city managers as they are not simply ornaments. answering basic questions like what was a tree worth? what was the structure and character of a whole urban forest? what percentage of it had been
elm and what percentage was okay? did trees really clean the air and how much? how much money did they save in energy costs? how much storm water might and oaktree absorb? these were very basic questions which no one had any answers to. at this same conference, the conference was interesting, everyone who was really influential going forward in urban forestry was there. and was also very influential because he was an entirely new kind of tree lover. he was not a professional forrester. he was a charismatic baby boomer flower child, he fell in love with tree planting in california and unlike, i have to say, the forest service, instinctively
understood how to cast trees and tree planting as hip. a glamorous way to heal cities and he really understood marketing. he had been on johnny carson and the talk shows and tree people which he started would serve as a really highly influential grassroots model which all history advocacy groups which exist in american cities really are modeled on 3 people. 3 people. he remains a visionary person, trees are central to the way he thinks but he is thinking in terms of how do you actually register cities. so in the early 1990s many cities including chicago were being told by the epa that they had to clean up the air. the second mayor of chicago was a huge tree lover born on arbor
day and he looked at the person who planted trees and said don't trees clean the air as it why don't we solve this problem with a lot of trees, we don't actually have the science to answer that though someone is starting to do that. the got $1 million and roland roundtree said his major protéges to chicago to begin the foundational science. they issued the chicago urban forest climate project report, and what they were trying to do is figure out how you determine the value of ecosystem services, the business of how much is saved and mitigated. so very disappointed in what happened in chicago, they issued
their report, they were able to quantify the benefits and put it in the dollars and nothing happened. very powerful pr machine and did not go anywhere with it. they kept on working. i was amazed to find this late in the game. it was literally counting believe on a lot of trees, so they were doing all standard street tree data for 16 american reference cities and had a scientific partner ecologist, paula pepper who was very key, which was the least area index
on urban trees. over two years she had various helpers stripped the leaves off of the canopies of 100 mature specimens of 14, and species of urban trees one of which is the often maligned pair. so this is the answer. they were almost 90,000 trees. pepper said to me the first couple years i permanently stored -- really hate cherry trees, they did not want to get rid of their leaves. it was phenomenal, the number of leaves and oaktree has. they needed to know this. they needed to know the services, these species are formed so pepper was a person leading in reference cities have collected 30 pieces of data. what they would do is target at thousand street trees to fulfill
a good sample size and use those to develop this, signs of technology for more sophisticated analysis to benefit. in march 2005, the head of forestry here asked pearson and pepper if they would use queens as their reference city for the northeast and so pepper came here and the for street division had just done this tree inventory, all the cities, 600,000 street trees. ..
so the whole point of what they had set out to do in 1982 and again we are now looking they were only able to quantify the benefits and translate them into dollars and why were you doing this could you really wanted to change and affect public policy how can you could be strategic about using this data and how it could get incorporated so that they were
not always an afterthought but an intricate part integral part of what was going on with planning new york city street trees saved rashly --dash mike roughly $55 per tree. the benefit of about $9 per tree. that totaled $5 million. street trees receipt reduced storm runoff. so the average street tree intercepted 1,442 gallons worth. that made it quite an impression on the city managers and then there were collective other benefits which were aesthetics increased property values and economic activity and reduced human stress so it emerged as you go around trees near
levels come down. this has quite and significant implications for public health. it's all estimated at about $90 per tree. so the bottom line was the street trees were delivering hundred $22 million in benefits for about $10 a tree. the forestry officials received about $8 million. they were allocated another 6.7 million. the net benefit of all of these was an impressive 100 million. for every dollar that you spend it was generating $5.60 in benefits. there was also huge amounts of other information that was useful in terms of the planes.
and almost a quarter of the trees were some variety of maple. it allows you to really think strategically about as we move forward and we plant what are you going to plant. one of the graduate student was a man named stop scott mackle. his job was to figure how to create software that would enable them to use this information via software and so in 2006 he gave up and went and joined davey trees and there is still very much a visionary company in that they saw the importance of this. of course there is self interest in this. the more people that know about them this is something
that they do in the forest service we all know can never run a software public domain site. and be constantly updating and improving the range of software that you see here. if you go on the site you can see all the places that make use of this software and it's really all over the world. so, there was a really significant consequence to this report who was a very dated --dash mike data-driven mayor. he decided to quadruple the budget. on what you see here is the first planting a million trees their nonprofit partner was the new york restoration project and actually to the right of the mayor.
one of the things about the restoration project i can appeared numerous times to report on this is that anything they do always involves celebrities to make it more glamorous. and you see that ultimate celebrity and then behind the cast of wicked in their t-shirts. so finally the new tree science is really moving public policy. and people often ask me since my book came out i've done a lot of talks and people ask me where is the city that really got it right and nobody would ever expected to be new york but i think it is really a template of how you use this new tree science and how you move forward with really restraining urban forests. as far as i know they are unique in having actually planted and million trees now honestly many of those trees are dead but the ones in the
park because as you see and i think many of them were watered. even if third of them survived and grow out in the park in the woods that is really monumental in the scale of how much they have to ramp up they had been planting about 10,000 trees per year. very impressive. very impressive. the other thing that they did was that they started by targeting poor neighborhoods and i should say vanessa mentioned that i started the tree trust and i was so impressed by the i know experience of any of this at all. the woman who started there. actually lives in baltimore and she was very helpful but from the beginning we always presented trees as infrastructure.
the very different concept. it was on not the trees that were ornamental. what they find wonderful and joyful about them. these are living public utilities who are doing a lot of things as civil servants who deserve to be invested in. this is very typical of what you see which is inner cities just not anywhere close to enough the trees. and in baltimore the whole thing is a harbor in all of our neighborhoods we have a big storm and everything goes in it washes out there. we actually have a very famous trash wheel which goes towards us.
it has a huge twitter following. they really a document what they find in the trash. the other thing is all of the technology all of these mapping abilities, they have changed so much of what we know about the world how we interact with the world and so when the hold fabric for a million tree program came up la embraced it but unlike in new york it was sort of wishful thinking. and the first thing they said who is out at uc davis. maybe you could come down and map la so we can find out where we can plant trees. he did that for the very first time. they said do it by districts. so we can get the politicians interested. and when they did that what they found is that miller had like 40 percent. people who never cared about trees suddenly were interested
in it really highlighted something everybody knows intuitively. people have a choice in the money they live surrounded by trees. we do have an un- thought about relationship with trees where we understand their importance to us and we seek to be surrounded by them. the same thing down in baltimore with the exact same result and the district one which has a 6% tree canopy that's where we largely work though i should say harris creek has not been seen since 1880. when that water comes out into the harbor full of terrible stuff. so again, everybody left to plant trees and this is mcelderry park. and one of the reasons they love to plant trees is when you start it looks like this.
one of the most interesting things to me as as i was coming to the end of working on this book. what is really emerging i think is the most persuasive reasons that cities should be retrofitting themselves not just with trees but really with nature in a larger sense to take out something much more. is because of the emerging science of the importance of trees and human health. you find that when you had trees again to some expense --dash some extent it must have come down to those levels. more community involvement that can be as simple as a fact that people want to be outside with the trees there is less domestic violence. you can figure all of the
reasons for that when people walk out the door of their house the house they don't look at the tree and think i'm so glad you're saving meet 1 dollar and my taxes on storm water. the tree is really beautiful. and they are feeling the expects of it. there is an economist who has done the public health part of things and again it's all about data sets into mapping. they would look at where the pregnant women were living in what the birth outcomes were and what they saw more trees closer to pregnant women better birth outcome. it has a real significance for your life trajectory. he was very surprised by this and very skeptical and so he kept on thinking how could you look at the some other way and as many of you know 35 states
the ash board. it has been wiping out hundreds of millions of trees. he took that 16 counties out in the midwest and looked at the trees lost and morbidity and mortality in contract that there were more deaths than you would expect at an earlier age both for repertory reasons and cardiovascular reasons. i think we are in very early days with that kind of research i think that you will see even more reasons to plant trees. this is where i leave you. this is again our tree group starting in arbor day a very
tiny holiday these days compared to what it once was. it has been superseded by earth day. we just don't like to hold onto it. thank you very much. it's really an honor to be at the botanical garden and also because new york has done such an amazing job in such a leader in urban forestry. thank you. i have the system now ever since my friend did this. one man one woman. we will start with that. i was just wondering if you have anything to say about the kind of trends towards edible urban forests i get a lot of
reporting for this book that never made it into the book. one was to go around and look into that. i think it's a very beguiling idea but as anyone who has been involved in urban orchards will tell you the big problem is putting these trees somewhere where they will be cared for by someone who knows something and where the fruits will actually get picked in be used. as i say i think it's completely enchanting baltimore. but everyone who does it it is a real challenge because there is the initial enthronement and then the neglect i went around with a very nice young man and what they were doing as they would only plant trees
and institutional places like historic houses where there will be someone there who is committed to taking care of it. as you know people will commit to take care of things and then two years later that grant ends or different people are running things. the trees are still there. i love the idea. the sustaining of it is really hard. and planting them in schools is insane because trees tend to have their fruit in the summer. that's a big help. they save $209 per tree and hundred $22 million total for all of the five boroughs. is that over the lifetime of the trees or per year.
>> $209 per tree per year. and the as water services air quality there is a $90 which is a combination of aesthetics real estate value you're wondering more about that. who did the study this is done by greg. speemac i think if you go on to the parts department the parks department website for forestry there is a lot of information there. you may will be able to find that or just put in greg mcpherson and i can give you the title of it again. now are ready for a woman. >> are there any realistic
plans been developed. it is so important. how can we work with that plan so they are maintained. the street trees have very strict maintenance plans and requirements i think once you get into the parks where you're going out to private property a significant portion of these trees were planted on private property. i went to some of these events and i went back several years later. for instance the public park was inwood hill park. this have not been requested by that neighborhood because there had been a lot of partying going up there. i went back four years later. a lot of those trees have been pulled up by the people who
still wanted to be there to party. they had been re- planted. i would just guess that may be 30 to 40% of the trees that have been planted have survived. i felt like that was an acceptable number. i also went out to the total end of the line on a queen subway to a college they would take care of these trees. this is the eternal problem. you have to accept it. and that really constituted almost been on private property because that college is responsible for that. it's very variable.
you can be trained as a tree steward. i think right now who was the tree trust person who was here. to want to say anything about that. absolutely. i am in new a new york city parks website. to care for these four station plantings. there is opportunity for folks to become in events. there is deftly an opportunity but i think it's fair. it is difficult to mobilize the number of people that you need.
>> yes, go ahead. this is a follow-up. it is always the devil's advocate who said what about the cost of the maintenance of these trees and the destruction of trees sidewalk damage wind damage storm et cetera. i imagine those numbers to include the other costs speemac that is actually a point will taken. i have come to think for me the analogy is cars. they inflict all kinds of terrible damage both to people , property and to the world and yet we would never say oh, that car blew a tire and injured someone and therefore we are going to be in all cars
where they will be allowed to come down the street again. if a tree drops a branch out of the blue and inflicts terrible damage someone could be badly injured or killed the reaction is with to shut down all of these trees. there is a cost. the physical things in the world. i really began to think of trees in that way. and i like to hope that that is helpful to people to put things in context. >> when the number crunchers start only looking at numbers there is the actuary that doesn't care about the human part. the better argument is as you ended. they are beautiful. i am saving a dollar. he really noticed you really notice the energy part of it.
you really feel it. when summer comes. but i do think your point is very will taken about there is a downside to trees and how does that factor in. i think we will have one last question. >> what cost can you put on the ecological impact. >> i have no idea. one of the reasons that will, so these entries were brought in because they are incredibly tough and they were viewed for quite a long time as successful treat -- street trees. it began to fall apart the
norway moped maple just turns out to be highly invasive. they can gather the strength and mobilize. and without. that is a good question and i really don't know the answer. i never try to present myself as an expert on the trees. the vast world and i'm not an arborist. i think they are so important i think i alluded to this before. i started up feeling like we just need to make minimart trees but the cities are way too paved over and what we need to do is be rethinking cities and retrofitting to these both to mitigate all of the storm water and also for
all of the other reasons that have been decided in this talk and that in many ways that's how he has spent his last couple of decades working in la realistically probably we will take many decades to see it. in any major wide awake. i think i had used up all my time. >> thank you. [applause]. >> thank you for the wonderful inspiring lecture. it was very worthwhile to read. it isn't expert offer which is
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today it is a connect as adhd. each one really has a life story at the mental health and that the that runs through all of these is these are people with wonderful lives that compassed so much. in many cases they are geniuses. they've human characteristics. just like so many of us. it's really a journey into the life and into the mind i caught up studies dating way back to the early 19 hundreds a lot of medical studies biographies and letters left behind by einstein and then a lot of interviews with mental health experts. what are their theories. it's really based on the science of mental health experts. i look at all of these different sources to weave them together.