WE take our natural environment too much for granted. Look how we treat trees in urban area; we marginalize them by crowding them with structures, damaging their roots, cutting off branches disrespectfully, cluttering their surroundings with concrete, fire, trash. Notice how signs for plumber and electrician services or advertisements are thoughtlessly nailed to their trunks. Sometimes we even fell them and one mindless excuse is that their leaves require much effort to sweep away. Yet trees are necessary for shade, temperature control, aesthetics.
All of nature has a purpose in this world. Open spaces, water bodies, foliage, grass and what comes with them—birds, insects, animals—are essential to the health of the planet.
While some of us accept and appreciate our environment, most of us do not think that in present circumstances of modernity, particularly in urban areas where there is population density and structures galore, perhaps Nature needs a helping hand to stay alive and well.
This means Nature does not only need to be conserved and protected but it needs to be expanded.
Real estate developers should be more positive about the environment. They should include it in every project not just allowing what is there of the natural environment to play a role but to expand and enhance it. Landscaping in the grand and meaningful sense should be part of any real estate development. Thus, open spaces, water bodies, trees, grass and flowers should be part and parcel of every project they undertake. These must be created. The natural environment in real estate should not be a token but an emphatic ingredient.
Governments, both local and national, should lead the way. Infrastructure should not be confined to the building of roads, bridges, transport, structures. It should blend them with greenery, foliage, trees, water bodies to bring about health, aesthetics and the well-being that Nature gives human beings. In the infrastructure now in place in our country, the addition of greenery and taking away over-cemented areas (as in our town plazas) to bring them closer to Nature would be a worthwhile positive action.
Our country is blessed with a pleasant tropical climate, humidity, two seasons, a rich biodiversity of plants and trees. But let us not leave it at that but take a more active role in bringing them to our urban areas, our public spaces, our homes and institutions. We should have healthy indoor plants in our buildings and homes, plant the unique and varied endemic trees we have in our public spaces. We must have Nature in our daily surroundings for our physical and mental health.
I notice that in the concrete jungle that is New York City there are numerous pocket parks with trees, flowers and greenery that mitigate the harshness of cement. Jakarta, a crowded Asian metropolis like our Metro Manila, has giant trees and open spaces in its downtown area which give it a singular tropical touch so fitting to it. Kolkata has the Maidan, a huge park with no structures, no stalls, no commerce, just open space, greenery and trees for the public to enjoy.
Lately, I came across Berlin’s park, the Tiergarten, in the middle of the city. Formerly a royal hunting ground it was turned into a park. Affirmative action was taken by adding to its area, buying up more land until the park area reached 250 hectares in total. Then it was planned by professional landscapers who designed walkways, ponds, hedges, flowers and trees.
World War 11 created havoc. Bombing, food scarcity necessitating vegetable gardens, the need for fuel in the bleak postwar winters felled the trees. It was a ruin with only 700 trees left out of 200,000. But the public’s belief in having the park brought it back. The local government brought in 220,000 trees between 1949 and 1959 to rehabilitate the park. They were planted and nurtured with Berlin s postwar mayor, Ernst Reuter, personally planting a linden tree. The Tiergarten is a park again, a natural environmental space that has been given a place in one of the world s most modern and progressive cities.
There are lessons we can learn and apply from the above examples. One is that Nature is part of life in this planet. Another is that Nature has to be nurtured and protected and expanded.