Institution: Leeds Beckett University – UK
Keywords: Urban Forestry, Psychological Emotional and Spiritual Ties with Trees, Multi-Cultural Urbanism
The felling and clearance of trees to make way for agriculture and the expansion and progress of human civilisation is an activity which has gone on practically uniterupted for thousands of years, and is still continuing. In one sense, because trees have always stood in the way of progress, it might appear that human beings had little regard for such natural objects. Paradoxically, nothing could be further from the truth, and whilst human beings have seemingly striven in recent times to tame nature, in earlier times trees had a dominant influence upon human life, imagination and spiritual development, and were considered sacred in many cultures in every corner of the world. Now that most of us live and work in towns and cities, it could be argued that, compared to our forebears, we are now more alienated and divorced from the land, the natural world and this intimate relationship with trees.
That said, the benefits that trees can bring to our urban areas have been known for some time, but it was really only with the advent of the concept of urban forestry in the late 20th century, and the resulting research into the benefits of urban forestry that has subsequently taken places, that the very broad spectrum of these benefits has been established and quantified. Without a doubt, trees and woodlands have the potential to play a significant role in the viability and experiential quality of our multi-cultural urban environments, and thus urban forestry has increasingly gained political traction in many towns and cities across the world, improving the health and well-being of their citizens as a result.
It could be argued however that the promotion of urban forestry has all too often centred upon a fairly narrow spectrum of scientific benefits, the merits of which have not always chimed with or convinced local communities. This presentation will suggest therefore that a much broader perspective is required when promoting urban forestry and engaging with local multi-cultural communities. This perspective must promote and take into consideration the deep psychological, emotional and spiritual ties that people potentially have with their urban forests, in the full knowledge that the trees in around our towns and cities have the potential to be the quintessential symbol of biological evolution, interconnecting all our multi-cultural communities with nature by shining new light through old windows, and thus promoting viable urban futures for us all.