The 21st Century is the urban century. It has been forecast that urban areas across the world will have expanded by more than 2.5 billion people by 2050.
The scale and speed of urbanisation has created significant environmental and health problems for urban dwellers. These problems are often made worse by a lack of contact with the natural world.
By 2119, it is only through re-establishing contact with the natural world, particularly trees, that cities will be able to function, be viable and able to support their populations.
The creation of urban forests will make cities worth living in, able to function and support their populations: Treetopias.
This re-design will include the planting of many more urban trees and other vegetation – and making use of new, more creative methods.
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Although we did not fully realise it at the time, the 1986 Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, a building that incorporated 200 trees in its design, was the start of more creative urban forestry thinking.
This has been carried on in Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale apartments in downtown Milan, which incorporates over 800 trees as part of the building. Similar structures are being developed around the world, such as in Nanjing in China and Utrecht in The Netherlands.
The urban forest needs to be designed as a first principle, part of the critical infrastructure of the whole city, not just as a cosmetic afterthought.
We know, for example, that in 2015, urban forest in the UK saved the National Health Service over £1 billion (Sh131 billion) by helping to reduce the impact of air pollutants.
Trees can create places which can greatly improve our health and well-being. Our urban forest can give us the spaces to help improve our mental and physical health.