The Urban Tree and the Birmingham Trees for Life Legacy Justine Marklew from Birmingham Trees for Life describes the astonishing power and importance of trees, as we prepare to partner with BTfL around our upcoming T R E E concert. Look around you wherever you go – outside your front door, the local park, a city street, your nearest school, or community space, your garden, your neighbour’s garden. Trees are never far from your eye-line wherever you go or wherever you are. Imagine just for a moment your city, town, village or local area without trees and green spaces! It would be sparse, grey and lifeless. All concrete, straight lines and angles, no birds chirping, no blossom blooming, no beautiful green canopy cover or vibrant autumnal colour. Not only would we miss trees’ huge environmental impact, their positive effect on our air quality, health, wellbeing, and on wildlife – we’d miss out on their beauty! Trees have never been more important, and their value can never be over-estimated. It’s a message Birmingham Trees for Life repeats every year. Birmingham Trees for Life has been a small, pragmatic project achieving great things in the city of Birmingham for 14-years. If you live in Birmingham, it’s almost guaranteed that at least one of the trees in your local park or green space has been planted by Birmingham Trees for Life. In that time, we have planted over 90,000 trees in parks and green spaces, and worked with over 6000 volunteers including thousands of school children. We plant between 7000 and 10,000 trees a year during tree planting season, between November and March. As every new tree planting season starts, we bed down our beautiful standard trees in urban spaces, work with school children and volunteers planting thousands of whips. We watch as these wonderful woodlands grow, encouraging biodiversity, adding colour and canopy cover and we appreciate their beauty, environmental legacy and positive impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing. Not only that, the impact of green spaces on the city’s economy is worth £11-billion. Trees absorb CO2, produce oxygen and support biodiversity. Trees reduce flooding, cool hot cities, absorb pollutants, provide a food source for people and wildlife and reduce noise in built up areas. They also provide shade and shelter. One mature tree can absorb 48lbs of CO2 per year. Multiply that by 90,000 and you have an epic figure, resulting in a legacy that BTfL is very proud of! What we and every individual or community we work with do is create a tree legacy! But it’s not just about planting trees, it’s about involving the great people of Birmingham in everything we do. Whether you are a school, community group, volunteer, stakeholder or sponsor we embrace and celebrate your support. Children and adults have planted trees with us in the sunshine and in the pouring rain. Not even the worst weather dampens their spirits nor ours because we all understand that every tree planted is a legacy, helping save the environment one tree at a time. When we plant a tree, we feel a sense of empowerment, of ownership, of humility – it’s therapy! We believe that so many people in Birmingham have been part of the BTfL legacy that it’s like six degrees of separation – you might not have planted a tree with us yet, but you probably know someone that has! And if you haven’t planted a tree with BTfL yet, you can always plant a tree of your own. Here at BTfL we live and work by the mantra “ask what you can do – pledge to plant a tree or two!” As one of our 10-year-old volunteers from St Matthew’s Church of England School said, “trees are the earth’s lungs and we have to keep planting them”. So we do! In addition to planting trees, at BTfL we also enjoy forging new working relationships – one of which is with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group as they prepare for their T R E E concert in the Spring. Geoff Cole, Chairman of Birmingham Trees for Life says: “Trees are so important, especially in a large industrial city like Birmingham, and if we want less pollution, less flooding and cleaner air we simply have to plant more trees! By partnering with organisations around the city, including BCMG, we can help to get the message out about the importance of trees to our environment.” Our partnerships across the city with artists, poets, musicians and educators help spread the message about how important it is to nurture nature, from planting trees and celebrating trees through digging holes and bedding down our saplings to art, singing, writing, drawing and composing! And every new tree planted, every new partnership, linked or joint community venture achieved is helping BTfL celebrate that Birmingham is one of the greenest cities in Europe. The city has 571 parks totalling over 14-square miles of public open space, more than any other equivalent sized European city. Birmingham boasts over one million trees – as many as the population of the city! Who would have thought it: Birmingham, central to the industrial revolution could be a green beacon of environmental greatness for its population. So much so that only last year Birmingham earned the international accolade of becoming a Tree City of the World! To become a tree city of the world, Birmingham had to meet five core standards - establish responsibility; set the rules; know what you have; allocate the resources; and celebrate achievements. Birmingham Trees for Life worked closely with the City Council to review the city’s tree policy going some way in meeting the requirements of becoming a Tree City of the World. As each new tree planting season approaches BTfL pays attention to increasing tree planting in inner city areas where air is more polluted. By filtering polluted air, reducing chemical smog formation, shading out harmful solar radiation and providing an attractive, calming setting for recreation, trees can have a positive effect on the incidence of asthma, skin cancer and many stress related illnesses. The positive effects of the green environment, especially trees, on mental health are now well-documented, especially since lockdown. Humans have evolved to live in harmony with the natural environment – when we are deprived of contact with it, our mental and physical health suffer – and the benefits are for everyone. Planting trees does everyone in the city and the world a very big favour. What could feel better than that? We know – planting another tree! So never underestimate the urban tree. Whether it stands alone on a street corner, is rooted in your garden or blossoms beautifully in your local park. Love that tree and appreciate that tree; celebrate that tree and better still - plant a tree! Because a world without trees is a world without lungs and a world without lungs is a world with no future!