Trees are invading our cities… For the International Day of Forests, Alastair and Clarisse explain how cities are greening up to fight global warming – and just to make urban life all-round more pleasant!
Transcription podcast – March 20, 2020
Hello and welcome to WoW !, the positive podcast, listening to kids and showing them that there’s a lot more to our world than bad news.
I’m Alastair. As a journalist, I spent many years bringing people bad news from all over the world. Now I realise that if we’re really going to fix our problems, we need a bit of inspiration too. And so I get together regularly with my podcast buddy Clarisse to talk about what people are already doing to come up with solutions.
In every episode, we look at big issues from the point of view of problem solvers = that way, we reckon, you’ll get a much more realistic and balanced view of what’s going on it the world than you might get if you just hear the news headlines.
Today, we’ve got a story that we think is pretty, well, cool….
C – Hi Alastair. I have good news for you!
A – Hey Clarisse. Good news you say ? Great, tell me about it.
C – Well I took up your challenge in the last episode. And I think I’ve found a solution for cleaning the air in our cities.
A – Fantastic ! So what it is ? Is it totally new or does it exist already?
C – Vertical forests ! And they do exist, for example in Italy, Do you know them?
A – Ah yes ! I’ve seen one, in fact. In Milan. They have skyscrapers and apartment buildings and offices where there are plants, even trees, growing all the way up the walls and around the balconies. In Milan, they have apples and cherries and even olive trees. The building I’ve seen looks like it’s wearing a big green overcoat that seems like, well, … a forest!
C– Exactly. And so they call them, vertical forests ! The building you saw in Milan is covered in hundreds of trees and 20,000 plants of all kinds.
A – Hm. Interesting. Vertical forests, vertical gardens, forest tower, walls of plants … these are all ways of talking about one important idea : that trees should have a big place in our cities, not just to look nice here and there, but really to surround us. So much is possible, by placing gardens on roofs, plants on balconies, covering walls with shrubs – we can really start creating jungles in our towns. The architect Stefano Boeri, the man behind Milan’s Vertical Forest, says that trees should be our allies, our partners in the city of the future,
C– The city of the future ? Hm. But you know it also makes me think of the past – you know ? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon…
A – Ah yes, one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, thousands of years ago. We’re not entirely sure what the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were like but yes, maybe the idea has helped inspire our modern architects like Stefano. A dream made real ? Who knows !
C – Well, it certainly inspires me! I love the idea that you can reach out of your window 27 floors up and pick your own fruit!
A – Absolutely, Clarisse. And these vertical forests aren’t just there to look nice. They help solve some really big problems, including air pollution and global warming
C – That’s right. And you know how they do that?
A – Well some of it is because of that superpower that trees have – to soak up the dust and pollution from the air and also to pump out fresh oxygen as they grow.
C – Ah yes. The superpower of trees ! In fact these vertical forests are like giant air purifiers.
A – Exactly. And they also provide natural air conditioning. In summer, they provide shade to keep people cool inside and in winter they let through the sunshine to warm us up
C – Ah. That’s smart…
A – …and that’s not all ! Cities are pretty noisy places, right ? Well, trees also protect us from the rumble of traffic in the street. So thanks to trees, we can be less stressed!
C – Ah, we can relax among the trees in town. I like the idea.
A – Yes, Clarisse. And there’s more! Planting more trees attracts more birds and wildlife. And there’s a really important reason why the United Nations, the organization that brings together all the world’s countries, is pushing to build what it calls the “Great Green Wall for Cities”.
C – Like the Great Wall of China?
A – Well, I guess that’s the first Great Wall we think of. But this is in fact a huge project to plan millions of trees over the next 10 years. Enough to cover a million football pitches inside cities especially in hot parts of the world. Just think!
C – Wow! And the point is…?
A – To keep cool, Clarisse. Of course trees provide shade. But the Great Green Wall is also about using another superpower of trees. Cars and machines giving off heat and as our cities grow more and more of that heat gets trapped in the concrete. But trees can soak up some of that heat. The United Nations reckons that they can lower the average temperature in a city by up to 2 degrees Celsius.
C – Ah excellent. Though I still like most the idea that we get to hear the birds more outside our windows.
A – Well, that may be the sound of the city of the future, no ? Once we have electric cars and vertical forests everywhere.
Singapore, the tropical island city in Asia, has taken a lead – they have one tree for every two people. In Colombia in south america, they’ve got one of the biggest walls of plants in the world. And other towns, like Sydney, Madrid, Paris, Brussels or London have all got buildings covered in greenery.
Stefano, who build the Vertical Forest in Italy, has got plans to construct projects in other countries, including one in China that would involve 200 buildings and a million trees. What can you say to that Clarisse ?
C – WoW. Just wow ! I love the idea that is practical, good for people and the planet – and, I think, simply poetic.
A – Ah yes. And that makes me think of another Italian, the famous painter Leonardo da Vinci, from hundreds of years ago. Do you know what he said? “Go take your lessons from nature,” Leonard said. “That’s where our future is.”
C – Ah, Now I am inspired even more. I don’t have a vertical forest here, but I think it’s time for me to go and tend to the flowers on my balcony.
A – Ha, Happy gardening, Clarisse.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about vertical forests and all the ways that trees can help make our cities better places to live. If you’re listening on Saturday, March 21, well, happy Forests Day! It is the United Nations International Day of the Forest.
People like Stefano, the Italian architect of Milan’s Vertical Forest, they talk about cities have a green future. What do you think cities will look like in the future? That’s today’s challenge!
Send your drawing, a photo, a poem or any other ideas to Clarisse and Alastair at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly to our Instagram account. You’ll find links to our website on the home page of this podcast.
For everyone listening at home and maybe not able to go outside at the moment, we hope the thought of cities full of trees has made you smile. Thank for spending time with WoW! We’ll be back soon with more good news. Meantime, stay safe, and stay positive!