Urban and Suburban Green of Attica. How much it is and how it should be.

Urban green is defined as the vegetation of the cities, usually consisting of small or large groves, parks, playgrounds, private gardens, etc. and generally concerns the green that provided by the various private or public spaces. By the term “suburban green”, as there is no official terminology, we refer to the free, green land – with any form of vegetation – located in spaces around the city-centers.

The vital importance of the vegetation is widely known, as it does not only concern the decoration of urban areas but also contributes significantly to reducing the pollution of the already aggravated atmosphere of the cities and hence the health and the psyche of the urban population. Its development is about to ensure a better quality of life for their inhabitants. In one simple example: walking slowly, from 2 to 4 km in a park, stimulates the functioning of the immune system, reduces arterial pressure and the production of stress hormones, and even improves the quality of the sleep. However, even if the benefits of our contact with nature are obvious, the question arises whether there is legislation covering / imposing the existence of such sites in Attica, what is the current situation and whether it results reasons for reflection.

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According to the Government Gazette [Gazette No. 285 / 5.3.2004], during the urban planning, the green areas must be located in order to facilitate the movement of the pedestrians through the important elements of historical memory and through the points of social and cultural activity. The green should provide visual isolation to the monuments from the incompatible environment and, as far as it is possible, isolate the citizens from the urban environment. It is necessary to exist vegetation in order to act as a dividing element between the residential area and the areas with severe nuisance activities such as high traffic roads. The desired free space per inhabitant is set at about 8 m², and it is also desirable spreading it over green lands, playgrounds, squares and parks, which in their turn should be distributed in such a way that there is direct accessibility within the urban space. These figures, however, are referred to as desirable and not mandatory, a fact that legally allows Greek cities not to take the appropriate penalties to make changes.

Greek reality is far away from international and European standards. In 1980, the total built-up area of the capital was half, while the green per citizen hardly exceeded the 2.5 m2. Today, the densely populated urban areas of Athens are definitely larger in size, while the green space per inhabitant remains at 2.55 m2, making our capital the first city by the end in the European list [Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works, 1994].

At the same time, it is discouraging that, in a simple web search for the data of the urban and suburban green of Attica, the official data generated by state agencies are made up of surveys that are over the past decade.

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Vegetation in cities is the main indicator of the quality of our life. A constant problem of the Greek cities is the lack of free green spaces, and the inability to maintain the already existing spaces. The competent bodies for each communal space are Local Authorities and Grades and the Police. The coordination of them in order to address the problems of these sites, sometimes is difficult. In addition to introducing appropriate legislation to promote the creation of green spaces and ensure their protection, environmental education for citizens becomes necessary in order to stimulate the relationship between the citizen and the environment, which tends to decline, despite of the widely information that is provided by the evolution of technology. The relaxation of the Athenian bond with the nature, which is consistent with their removal from the provinces and the adoption of the abnormally fast lifestyles, it is now a true fact. The result of it, is the indifference and sometimes even the vandalism. Updating and developing the public’s sense of the environment could somehow change this serious situation.

In such a way, WWF chose to awake the citizens and since April 2016 created the free mobile application “WWF GreenSpaces”, which enables everyone to discover and evaluate the urban green spaces. Till today, more than 8,500 citizens have already recorded and rated over 1,700 green areas in 126 Greek cities. Although the image that emerges through this interactive process is ultimately below the expectations of a developing society – with an average rating of only 6.1 out of 10 (Attica needs about some million trees for a healthy environment) – at least the growing interest of the citizens, gives us optimism about future changes.

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Green areas are an invaluable wealth for every city, they are irreplaceable environmental resources that offer valuable services for the good quality of life of their inhabitants. Creating and caring for them is the responsibility of everyone, as tree-planting not only secures our own lives but also the life we are bequeathed to the next generations.

 

Bolonaki Evropi

Physicist – Physical Oceanographer

 

References

[1] WWF Hellas, Athens 2009: (Νίκος Μπελαβίλας – Φερενίκη Βαταβάλη), «Πράσινο και ελεύθεροι χώροι στην πόλη».

[2] The Government Gazette [Gazette No. 285 / 5.3.2004].

[3] http://www.citybranding.gr/2013/04/blog-post_8.html, «Αστικό πράσινο: Οφέλη, προβλήματα, σχεδιασμός, διαχείριση»,  8 Απριλίου 2013.

[4] Newspaper: ΤΑ ΝΕΑ , 13-10-2001  , Page.: N64, Article Code: A17166N641.

[5] Αβδελίδη Καλλισθένη, «Αστικός φυσικός χώρος και πτυχές της καθημερινότητας στην Αθήνα», http://dx.doi.org/10.12681/grsr.9885 .

[6] Αραβαντινός Α. και Κοσμάκη Π. (1988). Υπαίθριοι χώροι στην πόλη: θέματα ανάλυσης και πολεοδομικής οργάνωσης αστικών ελεύθερων χώρων και πρασίνου, Publications: Συμεών, Athens.

[7] WWF, Report 2017, «GREENSPACES, Το πράσινο στα χέρια σου».

Which Trees Offset Global Warming Best?

Trees are important tools in the fight to stave off global warming, because they absorb and store the key greenhouse gas emitted by our cars and power plants, carbon dioxide (CO2), before it has a chance to reach the upper atmosphere where it can help trap heat around the Earth’s surface.

All Plants Absorb Carbon Dioxide, but Trees are Best

While all living plant matter absorbs CO2 as part of photosynthesis, trees process significantly more than smaller plants due to their large size and extensive root structures. In essence, trees, as kings of the plant world, have much more “woody biomass” to store CO2 than smaller plants, and as a result, are considered nature’s most efficient “carbon sinks”. It is this characteristic which makes planting trees a form of climate change mitigation.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), tree species that grow quickly and live long are ideal carbon sinks. Unfortunately, these two attributes are usually mutually exclusive. Given the choice, foresters interested in maximizing the absorption and storage of CO2 (known as “carbon sequestration”) usually favor younger trees that grow more quickly than their older cohorts. However, slower growing trees can store much more carbon over their significantly longer lives.

Plant the Right Tree in the Right Location

Scientists are busy studying the carbon sequestration potential of different types of trees in various parts of the U.S., including Eucalyptus in Hawaii, loblolly pine in the Southeast, bottomland hardwoods in Mississippi, and poplars (aspens) in the Great Lakes region.

There are literally dozens of tree species that could be planted depending upon location, climate, and soils, says Stan Wullschleger, a researcher at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory who specializes in the physiological response of plants to global climate change.

Plant Any Tree Appropriate for Region and Climate to Offset Global Warming

Ultimately, trees of any shape, size or genetic origin help absorb CO2. Most scientists agree that the least expensive and perhaps easiest way for individuals to help offset the CO2 that they generate in their everyday lives is to plant a tree…any tree, as long as it is appropriate for the given region and climate.

Follow the link to learn more: https://www.thoughtco.com/which-trees-offset-global-warming-1204209

First-ever ‘negative emissions’ power plant goes online

Unfortunately, it’s no longer enough to cut CO2 emissions to avoid further global temperature increases. We need to remove some of the CO2 that’s already there. Thankfully, that reversal is one step closer to becoming reality. Climeworks and Reykjavik Energy have started running the first power plant confirmed to produce “negative emissions” — that is, it’s removing more CO2 than it puts out. The geothermal station in Hellsheidi, Iceland is using a Climeworks module and the plant’s own heat to snatch CO2 directly from the air via filters, bind it to water and send it underground where it will mineralize into harmless carbonates.

Just like naturally forming carbon deposits, the captured CO2 should remain locked away for many millions of years, if not billions. And because the basalt layers you need to house the CO2 are relatively common, it might be relatively easy to set up negative emissions plants in many places around the world.

As always, there are catches. The Hellsheidi plant capture system is still an experiment, and the 50 metric tonnes of CO2 it’ll capture per year (49.2 imperial tons) isn’t about to offset many decades of fossil fuel abuse. There’s also the matter of reducing the cost of capturing CO2. Even if Climeworks improves the efficiency of its system to spend $100 for every metric ton of CO2 it removes, you’re still looking at hundreds of billions of dollars (if not over a trillion) spent every year to achieve the scale needed to make a difference. That will require countries to not only respect climate science, but care about it enough to spend significant chunks of their budgets on capture technology.

It could be a long while before you see systems like this implemented on a global scale as a result.

Follow the link to learn more: https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/14/negative-emissions-power-plant-online/

Funding Trees for Health

Imagine if there were one simple action that city leaders could take to reduce obesity and depression, improve productivity, boost educational outcomes and reduce incidence of asthma and heart disease among their residents.

Urban trees offer all these benefits and more.

Yet American cities spend less than a third of a percent of municipal budgets on tree planting and maintenance, and as a result, U.S. cities are losing 4 million trees per year.

A new white paper, written by The Nature Conservancy with input from The Trust for Public Land and Analysis Group, identifies street trees as one of the most overlooked strategies for improving public health in our cities.

“For too long, we’ve seen trees and parks as luxury items, but bringing nature into our cities is a critical strategy for improving public health,” said Rob McDonald, lead scientist for global cities at The Nature Conservancy and first author of the white paper.

The white paper estimated that spending just $8 per person per year, on average, in an American city could meet the funding gap and stop the loss of urban trees and all their potential benefits.

The full paper offers several specific examples of innovative public-sector partnership and private sector investments that highlight the full societal value of urban trees. However, municipal leaders in communities of all sizes can begin to address significant health challenges by thinking creatively about the role of nature in cities and towns:

  • Establish codes to set minimum open space or maximum building lot coverage ratios for new development.
  • Implement policies to incentivize private tree planting.
  • Break down municipal silos to facilitate various departments – such as public health and environmental agencies – to collaborate.
  • Link funding for trees and parks to health goals and objectives.
  • Invest time and effort in educating the public about the tangible public health benefits and economic impact of trees.

5 Ways You Can Help The Environment In The Next Hour — Without Leaving Your Desk

The internet: The world’s arena for catching up on news, binge-watching TV, and replaying adorable videos . And with a little know-how, you can also use it as a tool for quick, meaningful environmental action.

These days, switching over to solar power and ditching plastic are just a few clicks away, and you can majorly cut down on your footprint without even leaving your desk. Here are five ways to help out the environment from the comfort of your home. Altogether, they’ll take less than an hour and leave you feeling majorly accomplished.

1. Calculate your carbon footprint

Carbon calculators make it easy to quantify your environmental impact in a matter of minutes. Answer a few questions about your transportation habits, energy use, and consumption patterns to get a better idea of where you’re acting in an eco-friendly way and where you could use a little improvement. Then, let these insights inform your habits moving forward.

2. Offset your next plane trip

While reducing your emissions should always be your first priority, offsetting is basically a way to press tare on your environmental impact. You can donate money to initiatives that take carbon out of the environment—like tree plantings and renewable energy projects—to balance out the carbon you’re putting into it with your daily routine. Offsetting your flights is a good place to start, since plane travel is a major emitter but one that most of us can’t realistically give up altogether.

3. Pledge to give up straws

The Lonely Whale Foundation, a nonprofit that uses clever campaigns to clean oceans, recently launched the #StopSucking challenge. By accepting, you’re committing to saying no to single-use plastic straws when drinking on the go.  Take the pledge, share on social, and challenge other individuals and companies in your area to do the same, all in under five minutes.

4. Tell your representative what you care about

If hopping on the phone to call your representative isn’t your thing, environmental groups have made it super easy to write to your congressional representative online using a pre-populated form. Just sign your name,  add a quick personal message at the end and you’re good to go.

5. Check to see if you can switch over to renewable energy

You don’t need to deck out your roof with solar panels or move closer to a wind farm to switch over to renewable energy in your home.  For example, in certain parts of the United States, Green Mountain Energy lets you switch over to renewables on the spot without changing energy providers. Just input your ZIP code and see if it’s a possibility for you.

Follow the link to learn morehttps://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/help-the-environment-in-the-next-hour

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These drones can plant 100,000 trees a day

It’s simple maths. We are chopping down about 15 billion trees a year and planting about 9 billion. So there’s a net loss of 6 billion trees a year. Hand planting trees is slow and expensive. To keep pace with the tractors and bulldozers clearing vast areas of land, we need an industrial-scale solution.

For example, a drone that can plant up to 100,000 trees a day.

BioCarbon Engineering, a UK-based company backed by drone manufacturer Parrot, has come up with a method of planting trees quickly and cheaply. Not only that, trees can also be planted in areas that are difficult to access or otherwise unviable.

Planting by drone

First a drone scans the topography to create a 3D map. Then the most efficient planting pattern for that area is calculated using algorithms.

A drone loaded with germinated seeds fires pods into the ground at a rate of one per second, or about 100,000 a day. Scale this up and 60 drone teams could plant 1 billion trees a year.

The system’s engineers estimate that their method is about 10 times faster and only 20% of the cost of hand planting. And because there is no heavy machinery involved, it’s possible to plant in hard-to-reach areas that have no roads or steep, inaccessible terrain.The BioCarbon team has tested its technology in various locations and recently trialled reseeding historic mining sites in Dungog, Australia.

Elsewhere, a similar idea is being used by Oregon start-up DroneSeed, which is attempting to create a new era of “precision forestry” with the use of drones to plant trees as well as spray fertilizer and herbicides.

Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers for deforestation, with vast swathes of forest cleared to make way for the cultivation of crops including soy, palm oil and cocoa, as well as for beef farming.

At the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos this year, Norway announced a $400 million fund to kick-start investments in deforestation-free agriculture in countries that are working to reduce their forest and peat degradation. It is estimated that the world loses between 74,000 and 95,000 square miles of forest a year – that’s an area the size of 48 football fields lost every minute.

You can find the article here: (The World Economic Forum): https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/drones-plant-100000-trees-a-day/?utm_content=bufferb212b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer