I doubt anyone could point to just one feature that makes a city a great place to live, instead a great city depends on thousands of small parts that collectively make it a success or a failure. Toronto has some terrific features but also some big challenges. We sit beside a huge fresh water lake, but because of our location climate change has a harsh impact on us — from ice storms to floods — and scientists are predicting that extreme weather conditions will increase. Toronto must look for ways to fortify our city for the weather to come, and for the increase in population that is expected.
But let’s get back to one of the small features that cities around the world are using to improve the quality of life for their residents — Trees. Not only do trees improve air quality, produce oxygen, and combat the greenhouse effect, they cool the streets, conserve energy and save water. Given all the positive impacts of having a large and healthy urban tree canopy (over 50% coverage) where does Toronto sit in comparison to other cities in North America?
Below are the top ten cities in North America and their percentage of tree and bush coverage:
1. Atlanta -52%
2. Nashville – 49%
3. Pittsburg – 42%
4. Halifax – 41%
5. Albuquerque – 38%
6. Washington D.C – 36%
7. Minneapolis – 34%
8. Tampa – 32%
9. Austin – 31%
10. Portland – 30%
Toronto isn’t even on the list of top ten, but we sit at a measly 26% tree coverage — we can and should do better!
Trees by Joyce Kilmer I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.