In these changing times, “What is the dollar value of trees?” is an emerging question. How do you put a financial number on the health benefits of having trees around us when we are only now recognizing and acknowledging their health-giving benefits as fact?
Additionally, there are benefits like emotional and cultural pleasures, invaluable shade in hotter times, storm water management by tree root systems, cooling of ambient air from transpiration (which canopies do naturally), and physical slowing of winds with the resultant reduction in both heating and cooling energy usage for city structures.
All these benefits and more trees literally GIVE to city living. And then there is the creation of a healthy environment for plants, soils and animals of all types – how do we put a full dollar value on having a vibrant and healthy natural system around us, one where we bring natural systems and all the elements of nature in and around our homes?
Since we industrialized and created an academic interpretation of nature, and built a medical system which largely devalues natural remedies, we deliberately haven’t given trees a financial value beyond their trunks as lumber and pulp. In fact, they have been seen only as a maintenance cost and a luxury for wealthy homes and suburbs!
It is only recently, as part of ‘reacquainting’ ourselves with the necessity of nature for human life, that we have had to come up with $ values as part of the legal consequences when trees were felled illegally. And so initially, the fines were based on the equivalent value of the lumber. This did not stop abusers, nor did having to replant 3 or more trees for each mature specimen they had cut down. What’s more, those replacement trees die through deliberate lack of care in their early years.
We know placebos heal, but we don’t know why. The South Koreans and Japanese deeply value their Healing Forests but don’t try to explain how these treed spaces achieve this other than to recognize that the chemicals released into the air act as a stimulant to our immune system.
I’m going to suggest that we do not focus on attributing financial value to trees – this has been tried for decades and only leads to long legal debates. These debates only distract and delay humanity from recognizing, accepting, and then incorporating the benefits that each and every city tree GIVES in abundance to every city inhabitant. Let’s bring the Healing Forests into our image of what urban design can do if we focus on how healthy trees create healthy cities.
Or, if one feels that it is essential to apply a $ number for each city tree, then every time you pass that big old tree and smile, give your pleasure a dollar value and see how fast those numbers add up.
Another visualization to begin seeing each tree’s value, is to think of how much care, love, and money we commit to our pets. Trees are huge and don’t go on walks with us, but they live hundreds and hundreds of years and GIVE to those who come after us.