Dissecting The Claim That ‘Green Cities’ Will Save Humanity

Is planting trees enough? One professor certainly doesn't think so. Dissecting The Claim That ‘Green Cities’ Will Save Humanity Shutterstock

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As the world faces an uncertain environmental future, cities are looking for ways to reduce pollution, guard against extreme weather, and achieve a more “livable” society.

A big part of many such plans involves planting trees. And this sounds like a great strategy. After all, trees produce oxygen, remove carbon dioxide from the air, and provide shade.

But is it really an effective pursuit? Some experts aren’t convinced — and their reasoning might surprise you.

Des Fitzgerald makes his case

In a new book titled “The Living City,” medical humanities and social sciences professor Des Fitzgerald takes a contrarian view on the widespread push to preserve cities by turning to nature.

While he doesn’t reject plans to plant a bunch of trees outright, he argues that it’s not the path to achieving big goals.

Fitzgerald noted that London’s plan to become the world’s “first National Park City” got him thinking about the “very strange vision” some urban planners have for the world’s modern metropolises.

Tackling the talking points

One issue many folks say would be positively impacted by greener cities is mental health, but Fitzgerald said that “if you wanted to take urban mental health seriously, that is not where you would start.”

Instead, he urged city leaders to focus on inequality, housing, jobs, and other factors that take a daily toll on those struggling with mental health problems.

As for the argument that planting more trees is good for the environment, the professor acknowledged the benefits but said too many see it as a way to bypass the hard work.

So what’s his goal? To spark new conversations.

“It’s not that I’m against urban improvement or anything like that, but I think we need to think really carefully about what I think we’ve collectively decided a good city looks like.”

Chris Agee
Chris Agee November 9th, 2023
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