Urban vegetation can have an astounding effect on local air quality, and given that the urban heat island effect can kill well beyond the borders of a particular city, simply cooling down our city centers has immense benefits.
So it's good news indeed that Louisville, in decidedly red-state Kentucky, is getting serious about tackling its urban heat island effect through increased urban forestry, as well as efforts to promote reflective surfaces and green roofs.
Reported on as part of its What Works series on urban innovation, Politico Magazine has an inspiring profile of Louisville's re-greening efforts. Among the measures taken, the city has established a tree commission, it has spent $115,000 on a tree assessment, it has hired a sustainability director and an urban forester and, perhaps most importantly, the city has worked with individuals, companies and community groups to plant more than 12,000 trees in and around Louisville's urban core.
Crucially, given the health risks represented by cuts to city's tree-care budgets, Politico reports that Louisville's plan also includes budgeting and provisions for long-term care of newly planted trees, as well as efforts to maintain the health of existing trees too.
Louisville is by no means the only city pursuing such re-greening strategies. From three million trees planted in Mexico City to an industrial engineer planting mini-forests in Indian cities, there are some hopeful signs that urban forestry may be undergoing a global revival.
Given the multiple benefits—both local and global—of urban trees, this may even be one of those environmental issues that manages to cross party lines and get everyone on board. Everybody loves hugging trees, right?