Saturday, June 05, 2010

Trees and plants, or lack of, affect rates of aggression in urban settings

Prof. Cricket on freshly-cut stump on a boulevard in East Hillside

It’s June and the leaves have popped out. Duluth is nice and green. Lilac bushes and flowers are blooming. We’ve had several of those Perfect Duluth Days in a row.

Last month we ran an article about the tree census in Duluth. While listening to urban forester, Judy Gibbs, I learned something fascinating: the number of trees and plants, like bushes and flowers, actually makes a difference in the rate of violence in a community. At first I had my doubts of how this could be proven, but studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Landscape and Human Health Laboratory have shown living with barren surroundings was linked to having less ability to concentrate and more stress which leads to more aggression.
Other studies show that people in hospitals recover sooner if they can see a tree while looking out their window.

Duluth lost its Tree City USA status in 1993. Since that time we have lost 19,000 urban trees. So, when Prof. Cricket and I go for a walk, we count the number of recently chopped down trees. I can easily count 11 trees that have been chopped down in a four-block radius and NOT replaced in the past three years.

We need trees and bushes because they are relaxing. In the next few months we will have a new, huge Walgreen’s at 12th Avenue East and Superior Street. Recently I walked around the area and counted 31 trees that will most likely be chopped down for this new development. Is there anything we can do to keep the Hillside green and friendly? By the way, research also shows that people spend more money when shopping centers have trees.

Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff is the editor/general manager of The Hillsider.