Buenos Aires Silent Growth
This post is also available in: Spanish
As it happens in the 80 % of South America most Argentines choose to live in urban areas.
The city of Buenos Aires is the second most populous city in the continent and even if it is normally associated with buildings, people, traffic, noise; there is a key element that many times is ignored: Our trees.
As I lived in Europe, I was amazed by discovering that medieval cities didn’t count on having trees within their walls … It was then, while crossing their narrow streets when I considered a famous quote of I once heard.
“Happiness nests more in the nobility of a forest than in luxury without green”
Nowadays, I couldn’t walk trough the streets of Buenos Aires without admiring these beautiful trees, and understanding that their silent presence is actually part of the city’s patrimony:
Even if we do count the Bothanical Graden (holding more than 5 thousand species) the city itself has its own collection of examples.
Buenos Aires has historically had an urban planning with a special interest in green areas started by the famous landscaper Carlos Thays, responsible for great part of the amazing colors of our streets.
Thays provided Buenos Aires with an urban tree forest of 150,000 that rotates its flowering throughout the year. A studied and synchronized vegetal rainbow from endless numbers of varieties, Jacarandás, Ceibos, Lapachos and drunken sticks like noble custodians of the city. November in Buenos Aires is, perhaps, its best gift: the violet explosion of the Jacarandas in full bloom; The perfume of the Jasmines in temperate days; The lilac carpet of fallen petals and stamped on the sidewalks, and the fiery vermilion of the Ceibo flower. All “matured” at the same time, as an anthological floral and green orchestra *.
“Our environments are active partners in the conversation between location and the geographies of the mind and spirt” (Philip Sheldrake)
Green open spaces maintain wellbeing through preventing diseases and illnesses associated with overcrowding, poor sanitation, and exposure to environmental pollution.
Whilst in other cities of the world, the tree population is tending to diminish, Buenos Aires green spaces keep expanding, and the progressive city government is always giving special attention to urban planning whilst respecting Thays philosophy.
For several years now, administrations have included in their policies the idea of adding green spaces to Buenos Aires.
Trees can cool cities by between 2C and 8C. When planted near buildings, trees can cut air conditioning use by 30%, and, according to the UN Urban Forestry office, reduce heating energy use by a further 20-50%. One large tree can absorb 150kg of carbon dioxide a year, as well as filter some of the airborne pollutants, including fine particulates.
Green areas are not only represented by squares and parks but also by tree-lined avenues and streets, river fronts and all pedestrian and / or open spaces that may eventually be converted for public use.
It is good news to know that Buenos Aires has an even greater number of trees (0.18 per inhabitant) than the current international ideal (0.10 per inhabitant). However, its distribution is not equal.
Some areas are in need of new plantations, and the distribution of open spaces in general appears uneven within the city itself:
The district that has the greatest amount of land per inhabitant is in the commune 1 (Puerto Madero, San Nicolás, Retiro, Monserrat, San Telmo and Constitución)
In any case open spaces not always correspond to green space.
This year, while Puerto Madero and Retiro are increasing its population, the government presented the latest urban intervention, that will be called Paseo del Bajo:
The project involves the the creation of a new underground highway where on the top there will be roofs with stone work and trees, cycle paths and sidewalks, aerobic stations and other facilities to encourage recreation and sustainable mobility in the area. This would have a double benefit: to add green spaces and, mainly, to advance in the so much united union of the city with the river ( Rio de la Plata).
“In areas with more trees, people get out more, they know their neighbours more, they have less anxiety and depression. Being less stressed they become more active”
Besides from enhacing the beauty of the city, the growth of greener areas provide a new value to be considered in terms of real estate investments since it’s proved that commercial activity also tend to develop where trees are also economic drivers.
Even if the money tree hasn’t been yet created, the New Urban Agenda, held by Habitat III conference focused its vision on a pluralistic, sustainable and disaster resilient society that foster green economic growth. So, money might be growing from trees in the near future, after all.
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