The Future of Atlanta’s Urban Forest: Fourth in a Series

The previous installment in this series asserted that in the interest of fairness, when it comes to trees, we Atlantans should commit to hearing each other out.

Quite understandably, people who live among, near, and under trees have strong feelings about them. We love and fear them. They fill us with joy and exasperation. We value them for themselves alone; we value them for what they do for us; or maybe we don’t value them at all. Trees are an important aspect of what makes our city livable, many firmly believe; others worry that trees stand in the way of Atlanta ever becoming a “great” city, e.g., by acting as an impediment to achieving the population density typical of such places.

Fairness means that everyone who wants to have a say should have that opportunity, and what they say should be met with open minds and hearts.

The foregoing does not mean, however, that every opinion is equally valid.

On the contrary.

And here again fairness is key. Some visions of the future Atlanta are going to be better than others because they come closer to a perfect balancing of all the many interests present in a major city like ours.

What interests should be taken into account? How do we recognize the moment when we’ve balanced them as well as we possibly can? These are questions for another day (and for smarter minds, too).

For the present, it’s enough to say this.  On this topic, fairness is impossible of achievement without acceptance of the fact that you “own” a tree only in the loosest sense of the word.

Why is that true? It’s true in the same sense that you cannot be permitted to “own” the air my children breathe or the water they drink. Or for that matter, the air and water that my great-grandchildren will one day breathe and drink.

Living as we do in a city, with responsibilities to each other and to future generations, we must give up the notion that we can do exactly as we please.

You can’t. You can’t do exactly as you please — in some cases, that’s going to be true no matter what price you’re able and willing to pay.

“Your” trees are “my” trees, too, after all. It’s only fair that I have a say in their fate, as you do in the fate of mine. Right?

The Future of Atlanta’s Urban Forest: Third in a Series

Quick! Which one of these is true?

  • Tree are large, woody plants that (for pennies on the dollar) provide Atlanta with essential ecological goods and services, for which we would otherwise have to use precious tax money.
  • Trees are living organisms in their own right, and they have been our constant companions on this planet throughout human history. Their presence everywhere among us in this forested city is a daily source of inspiration and sense of wellbeing. Our lives are immeasurably enhanced by trees.
  • Trees are fine and all that, but no tree is going to offer me a decent job, keep a roof over my head, or make sure I have access to healthcare. Honestly? A dollar spent on trees is a dollar not spent on far more urgent priorities. Can we talk about transit and affordable housing now?
  • Trees frighten me. They fall and kill people. I don’t think I should have to be afraid in my own house every time a thunderstorm rolls through Atlanta.
  • Trees! Oh la de da. Is this a garden club meeting? What makes a city a place where people want to live is other people. Enough with all this talk about trees! Music festivals, the arts, pedestrian-friendly streets, events that bring the entire city together — if we want a vibrant Atlanta, a city that can be mentioned in the same breath as New York or Los Angeles, we need to invest in people. 

Continue reading The Future of Atlanta’s Urban Forest: Third in a Series

The Future of Atlanta’s Urban Forest: Second in a Series

Atlanta is a city in a forest.

That’s more than a tagline. Among major U.S. cities, Atlanta — the city proper, that is, excluding  the suburbs for present purposes — has the most tree cover of all, at just under 50 percent.

Keep in mind, however, that not so very long ago, our urban forest was much, much larger and denser.  Below is a comparison of metro Atlanta’s tree cover over time, from 1974 to 1996. (The city limits appear in red.) It’s stunning, isn’t it? Continue reading The Future of Atlanta’s Urban Forest: Second in a Series