My husband Rob's favourite book to borrow from the library in elementary school was Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Today we took our kids to the theatre to see the new movie "The Lorax". As in the book, in the movie the Once-ler has knocked down all of the trees to make his thneeds. The town of Thneedville is left treeless and therefore has no oxygen, relying on Mayor O'Hare to sell bottles of it. A young girl named Audrey paints pictures of trees, dreaming of having just one tree in her yard. Ted, who has a crush on Audrey, makes it his life's mission to find a tree for her. He tracks down the hermit-like Onceler who tells him the story of how Thneedville became treeless. He then gives Ted the seed from the last truffula tree, which he plants, despite opposition from Mayor O'Hare. In the end, hills surrounding Thneedville are littered with new trees and everyone lives happily ever after.
The story of The Lorax made me think about our cities today. Do we have enough trees in our cities to produce adequate air? I know New York City has fresh air programs where inner city kids can spend a few weeks in the summer with a fresh air friend in upper state New York. Although New York City seems to have a lot of trees, I suspect that many of these are in Central Park, not in the inner city. According to a recent American study, urban areas in the U.S. are losing 4 million trees per year. Twenty cities were studied, with Atlanta at the top of the charts with 53.9 % tree cover, while Denver was at the bottom, with only 9.6% tree cover. Of course, results varied depending on which part of the city was focussed on. One study cited that East Boston had less than 5% tree cover and South Boston had only 2% tree cover.
As for Canadian cities, I could not find many statistics for them. One site claimed that Toronto only had 17% urban tree coverage. I am assuming that Hamilton is better than Toronto for trees. If one stands at the edge of the escarpment in Hamilton and looks out over the downtown, one sees a sea of green. As for London, Ontario, its nickname is the "Forest City" -- is that a misnomer?
It's easy to take our trees for granted, at least until we don't have them anymore. Thank you, Dr. Seuss, for pointing that out to us.
Photo courtesy http://i.usatoday.net/life.