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GREENINGS: Nurture the neighbourhood by cultivating green canopy (Summer 2018)

August 12th, 2018 · No Comments

Replace those trees lost to weather and politics

Thanks to Premier Doug Ford, gas will be cheaper and our lungs fuller of it than ever since there will be no incentives to buy an electric vehicle. Thanks to this Neanderthal, we are now back to debating whether or not science is a thing.

Thanks to the premier’s late brother, we also have a less healthy tree canopy to suck up all the excess carbon and pollutants spewed by the dirty cars he wants to keep on the roads at lower cost. Rob Ford had slashed Toronto’s tree maintenance budget and voted against investing in planting new trees.

Neighbourhoods with a lot of tree coverage are shown to be healthier than neighbourhoods without.

Earlier this year, we lost a lot of trees in this neighbourhood due to a combination of ice and wind storms. Entire trees were uprooted in some areas and, in at least one case, ended up on top of a house. Cars were smashed and we are lucky nobody died (though there was one loss of life in the Mississauga area).

The Annex Residents’ Association’s Trees Please project has given us a good handle on how many trees are in the neighbourhood (about 10,000), but not a good handle on how many have been lost to these global warming linked weather events. We know it’s a lot, just by walking around, but exact numbers elude us.

It is hard to overstate the importance of the tree canopy.

A tree, especially a mature one, sucks up carbon and locks it away in its roots and trunk. It also helps filter the pollutants out of the air. Neighbourhoods with a lot of tree coverage are shown to be healthier than neighbourhoods without.

A 2015 study by researchers from Toronto, Chicago, and Adelaide used data from Toronto to suggest that cardio-metabolic conditions decreased in ways that were comparable to a median income increase of 20,000. While the study included several caveats and did not speculate for the reason behind this correlation, I have a few theories.

My first theory is that trees make a neighbourhood walkable. Thanks to the generous tree canopy, it is always lovely to walk to where you need to go. We have a walkable neighbourhood, where most of what we need is within walking distance.

Contrast this to where I used to live in Brampton. I would walk out of my apartment and be greeted by a massive parking lot. Walking to the shopping complex across the street was not very pleasant as you might get burned to a crisp in the summer. In the winter, there was nothing blocking the wind. Shamefully, we often drove to the plaza that was honestly less than 200 metres away. I have no doubt that trees making a neighbourhood more walkable contributes greatly to overall health.

Sadly, the tree loss this year has been substantial. A walk along Wells Street during the mid afternoon no longer provides a pedestrian with any shade. One tree stands majestically tall with all but the main trunk now trimmed. Without a single leaf, it could be a long time before it sprouts new limbs again.

If you lost a tree, I cannot stress enough the importance of replacing it. If you have a good spot for a tree, please stick a sapling in it.

Choose a native species that will thrive (not a Norway maple) and provide the children who grow up here with pleasant walks around the neighbourhood as they grow up to be adults. Invest in our neighbourhood and the health of our community. We need these trees.

If you lost a tree to tell us about or would like to get involved with our tree canopy preservation efforts, please contact parksandtrees@

We would very much like to get a handle on what was lost.

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy and distinguish environmental truths from myths.



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GREENINGS: The science of board games (Mar. 2018)

GREENINGS: Driving fuelled by unseen subsidies (Jan. 2018)

GREENINGS: No solutions for nobody’s problem (Dec. 2017)

GREENINGS: Celebrate science not milestones (Nov. 2017)

GREENINGS: Down to the data (Oct. 2017)

GREENINGS: Reducing paper waste (Fall 2017)

GREENINGS: Taking tolls to the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway (July 2017)

GREENINGS: Lessons from Madrid (June 2017)

GREENINGS: Thoughts on hitting the 400 benchmark (May 2017)

GREENINGS: Solving the food waste problem (April 2017)

GREENINGS: Kellie Leitch was right (March 2017)

Tags: Annex · Opinion