OK In Health - Science Corner

Map App Helps Bring Nature into the Equation - August 2012

Beat the heat and keep your community cool by investing in nature

By David Suzuki, Vancouver, BC

urban trees - planning

Imagine a sleek contraption for your backyard so powerful it has the cooling effect of 10 air conditioners, quietly filters dust, allergens, and pollutants, runs for free on solar power, and its only byproduct is oxygen.

Dream no longer. This elegant machine is a healthy, mature tree.

Using energy from sunlight, a tree can soak up almost 400 litres of water from the ground each day, and cool the surrounding air through transpiration. Trees absorb airborne contaminants and breathe out clean oxygen. They’re such efficient air filters that Columbia University researchers estimate that for every 343 trees added to a square kilometre asthma rates in young people drop by about 25 per cent.

What else can these handy natural contraptions do for us? The U.S. Forest Service says trees near buildings reduce air-conditioning needs by a third and, because they break the wind, save up to half the energy used for heating. According to the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture, mature tree canopies reduce the air temperature of urban areas between five and 10 degrees Celsius.

Imagine replacing these ecological services with human-built substitutes. While we can handle cooling a building, creating city-sized air conditioning that could reduce the temperature of an urban area by 10 degrees is an engineering feat that would require massive amounts of energy.

The sophisticated services that nature provides are not only misunderstood and underappreciated; they tend to be ignored in modern economics and urban planning. When a forest or wetland is converted to another use, municipal decision-makers focus on infrastructure costs, property values, and future contributions to the tax roll.

We continue to deplete natural resources and degrade nature in and around urban areas, failing to recognize the contribution of ecosystem services – like clean air, fresh water, and cooling – to the economy and health of communities. As The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity initiative notes, this ecological damage is the “perfect crime”, a theft barely noticed. We wouldn’t let a bank get away with losing our life savings. We shouldn’t let decision-makers off the hook when they allow our natural wealth to be squandered.

Encouragingly, a growing chorus of economists and policy-makers has begun advocating for a smarter way of accounting for the true value of nature – something called natural capital economics.

Most people understand the concept of financial capital. We pay for things we find valuable. Natural capital extends that perspective to ecological goods and services. It would be expensive to develop and build facilities to replace the things nature does. So we calculate the dollar value we would have to pay if we had to provide them ourselves.

How much is our natural capital worth? According to the David Suzuki Foundation’s research, the 7,000-square-kilometre Ontario Greenbelt provides at least $2.6 billion in non-market benefits each year. British Columbia’s Lower Mainland region is estimated to be worth at least $5.4 billion annually. Global studies have estimated the total value of the world’s ecosystem goods and services to be on par with the value of the entire global economy. In short, our natural capital is a source of staggering wealth.

Why do we continue to fritter away these amazing assets, despite their immense value? Unfortunately most people don’t have a clear picture of what stocks of natural capital exist in their communities, let alone the true cost of converting natural areas for industrial, commercial, or residential development.

That’s why the David Suzuki Foundation and Google Earth Outreach recently launched an online map that will allow residents and decision-makers to zoom in to their community and calculate the economic value of natural capital assets. The interactive Putting Natural Capital on the Map application allows users to select a parcel of land and find out what types of natural ecosystems it contains and what economic benefits it provides.

While economists, ecologists, and decision-makers grapple with how to estimate an appropriate economic value for nature’s benefits, I am hopeful that the field will spur communities to consider the true value of their natural riches. In the meantime, I encourage you to beat the heat and keep your community cool by investing in your own bit of natural capital – a tree for your yard or park. 

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Specialist Jode Roberts.




David SuzukiDavid's Bio: Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and chair of the David Suzuki Foundation. He is Companion to the Order of Canada and a recipient of UNESCO's Kalinga Prize for science, the United Nations Environment Program medal, the 2009 Right Livelihood Award, and Global 500. Dr. Suzuki is Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and holds 24 honorary degrees from universities around the world. He is familiar to television audiences as host of the long-running CBC television program The Nature of Things, and to radio audiences as the original host of CBC Radio's Quirks and Quarks, as well as the acclaimed series It's a Matter of Survival and From Naked Ape to Superspecies. His written work includes more than 47 books. Dr. Suzuki lives with his wife, Dr. Tara Cullis, and family in Vancouver, B.C. - David Suzuki Website


Post Your Wellness Events on OK In Health eMagazine

Copyright © 2004- 2011 OKinHealth.com. This article is of the copyright of OK in Health and the author; any reproduction, duplication and transmission of the article are to have prior written approval by OK in Health or the author.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER
This information and research is intended to be reliable, but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. All material in this article is provided for information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this newsletter / e-magazine / website. Readers should consult their doctor and other qualified health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The information and opinions provided in this newsletter / e-magazine/website are believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the authors. Readers who fail to consult with appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries. The publisher is not responsible for any errors or omissions. OK in Health is not responsible for the information in these articles or for any content included in this article which is intended as a guide only and should not be used as a substitute to seeking professional advice from either your doctor or a registered specialist for yourself or anyone else.
Connect with Us
facebook    twitter




Wellness Tip
Help for aging bones
It's never too late to begin! Recent studies involving mature men and women found that regular weight training improved hip-bone density. Weight bearing exercises significantly improved bone strength, reducing the risk for falls and fractures in later life.


Sacred Tour in Hawaii with Maria and Cindy 2014


Wellness Directory
Chi Solutions, feng shui foundations
Specialty: Feng Shui
Samantha will help you: - strengthen family relationships - utilize home spaces effectively - enhance wealth opportunities - find direction in your life
View Details


Celebration Centre and Metaphysical Society – Penticton, BC


Event
Birthing As Nature Intended Course with Teresa Van-Zeller from California
Date: Sep 20, 2014
Location: Vernon & North Okanagan
Start new or enhance your career by becoming certified as a Birthing As Nature Intended, (B.A.N.I.)™ Childbirth Education Practitioner.
View Details


Registered Reflexology Therapist Certificate Course - Penticton


Article
I’m too old, I’m too scared, I’m too fat – I am too…
You probably notice that in men around the age of 40 or 50 the body starts to make some shifts and you just look thicker. People just look thicker. I just saw a picture of Tom Hanks, a very popular actor, of course, and I noticed this guy is a lot bigger than he was not long ago, just thicker. You know what I mean? And I just decided that I didn’t want to be thick!....
Full Article


Adam McLeod, Dreamhealer in Kelowna


Recipe
Pineapple Pecan Muffins
Category: Gluten-Free
Description: Gluten-free Muffins.
These were a pleasant surprise as they have only honey as a sweetener. They do brown quickly but don’t be fooled. Allow them to bake for their full time.

Pineapple is one of those foods that is heaven to eat. A good, juicy ripe pineapple can satisfy a sweet craving as well as any chocolate bar. In addition to being a delicious food, there are many health benefits of pineapple.
Pineapple is Loaded with Vitamins and Minerals. The obvious benefits of pineapple are all the vitamins and minerals the fruit is loaded with. Its nutrients include calcium, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. In addition it is low in fat and cholesterol.
Full Recipe


Celebration Centre and Metaphysical Society – Penticton, BC