The word infrastructure brings to mind concrete buildings, underground sewer systems, power lines, and our multi-lane highways. The word nature conjures up completely different images. What, then, do they have to do with one another? Simple, really. Read on.
Some of the infrastructure within our cities is designed, in part, to deal with the extensive amounts of concrete we use to live in and drive on. Think about our storm drains: they are built into our roads to trap water and get it out of our way. Without them, the lower driving areas would be flooded after a normal summer rain. Eavestroughs are essentially the same thing but for our houses. Water is collected and moved to a more convenient location.
So what if, in addition to these man-made structures, we used nature for a large part of what it is designed to do: filter and trap water.
Trees need water and that’s a fact. They, like us, need water to grow, reproduce, and just go through its day-to-day motions. Winds blow moisture from leaves; roots draw up more water to replace what was lost. It is a constant process and we should be harnessing this act.
Deciduous trees also provide shade in the summer: less air conditioning and lower electricity bills are what you notice; less drain on the power grid resulting in a lower consumption of natural resources happen higher up the chain.
Coniferous trees act as wind breaks in the winter with similar results as those mentioned previously (think heating rather than air conditioning).
And when we add trees and plants to our streets, parks, yards, and rooftops, we reduce the pressure on storm drains during the inevitable spring melt and the rains that follow. The water that eventually makes it back to the water table is clean, having been filtered through roots and soil on its way.
All of this and it looks good, too. It has been proven that trees, plants, and greenery in general fast-track healing in sick or injured patients, promote active lifestyles, and decrease crime among a number of other benefits.
Let’s rethink urban infrastructure and integrate natural infrastructure wherever possible.