6 months ago

JAVA March 2018


CASTING A BOLD SHADOW By Jeff Kronenfeld • Photo: Danielle Wood 34 JAVA MAGAZINE

In case you hadn’t noticed, Phoenix is getting hotter. And no, I don’t mean because spring is a few weeks away. A study by the Weather Channel and Climate Central noted the city’s average temperature has risen by 1.5 degrees over the last century. A number of factors are working to further heat up our already sunny Valley – everything from shifting climate patterns to an increasing urban heat island effect, to the millions of ACs bleeding out warmth, and all of it tucked cozily under the haze of our smog inversion layer. It’s hard to believe that at one time the Valley’s air quality was touted as a curative for those suffering respiratory issues. On New Year’s Day, the Valley experienced some of the worst air quality in its history. Offi cials warned people with asthma and related disorders to avoid going outside, and even suggested healthy people avoid outdoor activity. While there’s no easy cure for all that ails the Valley from a health and environmental standpoint, according to Danielle Corral, tree program manager for the non-profit Trees Matter (TM), increasing the number of trees is one of the simplest ways to help. “We have to do something to counter all of the concrete and cars on the road,” Corral said. “It’s not just shade, not just heat. There are so many other factors.” According to a document from the ASU School of Sustainability and the City of Phoenix, every year, the city’s trees remove an estimated 1,700 tons of air pollution, sequester 35,400 tons of carbon and produce 89,200 tons of oxygen. TM’s three fulltime employees and its host of volunteers distribute between 5,000 and 5,300 trees each year through its Utility Shade Tree Program, in conjunction with the Salt River Project. Through its Trees for Schools Program, TM has led the planting of even more. In addition, TM leads a range of classes and workshops, covering everything from the basics of tree planting and maintenance to how to collect and process food products from local plants such as mesquite trees. This last class is part of TM’s Urban Food Forest program, formerly known as the Edible Tree Series. Aimee Williamson, executive director for TM, explained that the group was founded in 2007. Originally known as the Valley Permaculture Alliance, in 2016 the group decided to transition into a tree-focused organization because of “an understanding of the importance of increasing the tree canopy across the Valley.” “It keeps getting warmer, and there’s data that shows that urban areas are losing trees every year,” Williamson said. “It’s an issue on a national scale, and no other organization was filling the need within this community.” Williamson explained that increasing the tree canopy not only mitigates pollution but also protects commuters who walk or use public transportation, in addition to contributing to a community’s sense of mental well being. There are a lot of studies that show people are happier around trees. “The Maricopa County Health Department is now measuring heat-related illness and death,” Williamson explained. “They’re taking that data and seeing that we need to address people walking during summers and also people waiting at bus stops. It’s a health issue, not just about beautification.” Despite the transition to more tree-focused programming, Williamson said they “try to honor our permaculture roots.” During the transition, rather than seeing JAVA 35 MAGAZINE

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