The benefits of Community Gardens and Green Rooftops

The amount of community gardens and green rooftops has significantly increased, especially in the urban setting. New York City is a prime example because it is one of the most crowded cities, people and building wise. This city is always undergoing new construction projects and movement, so it is about time that it took a few initiatives to mitigate the city’s ecological footprint. Community gardens and green rooftops are tackling climate change while providing numerous of other benefits to the community. Community gardens reduce the amount of transported food and offer locally grown fruits and vegetables. This reduces the emissions that are produced from transportation, which will reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and decrease the temperature.

Community gardens are proven to have mental health benefits especially in children. This allows more people to be more connected and aware of their surroundings. By being exposed to the benefits of community gardens can make people have a deeper connection to the environment and make them want to protect it. A few of the ways that it helps mitigate climate change are by filtering rainwater, and helps keeps rivers and groundwater clean. Reduces soil erosion and runoff, which decreases flooding and saves the city money. Overall, it reduces CO2 in the atmosphere because the plants and soils take up the CO2 and releases more oxygen, acting as sinks.

Green rooftops are also extremely beneficial to the urban environment and its well-being. Green rooftop contributes to storm water management because water is stored by the substrate and taken up by the plants from where it is returned to the atmosphere through transpiration and evaporation. In the summer, depending of the types of plants and their growing season, green roofs retain 70%-90% of the precipitation that falls on them. During the winter, they retain 25%-40% of the precipitation. Through the daily dew and evaporation cycle, plants on vertical and horizontal surfaces are able to cool cities during hot summer months and reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect. Green roofs can also help reduce the distribution of dust and particulate matter throughout the city, as well as the production of smog. This can play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting urban areas to a future climate with warmer summers.

The plants on green roofs can capture airborne pollutants and atmospheric deposition. The temperature moderating effects of green roofs can reduce demand on power plants, and potentially decrease the amount of CO2 and other polluting by-products being released into the air. The presence of a green roof decreases the exposure of waterproofing membranes to large temperature fluctuations that can cause micro-tearing, and ultraviolet radiation. Green roofs can sustain a variety of plants and invertebrates, and provide a habitat for various bird species. By acting as a stepping stone habitat for migrating species they can link species together that would otherwise be fragmented. Using green roofs as the site for an urban agriculture project can reduce a community’s urban footprint through the creation of a local food system. (GreenRoof 2014)

There are many positive outcomes that come with the creation of community gardens and green rooftops. I hope that they will continue to increase which will minimize the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The plants and soils take up more CO2 and release more oxygen into the atmosphere. Community gardens and green rooftops are increasing and they are a great way to combat climate change.

Even though community gardens and green rooftops provide a lot of benefits for the environment, it also improves the well-being of those involved. Any person can get involved by joining an existing community garden or by creating their own. Once a person helps contributes to a community garden, they also get to take their own vegetables home. A person can also support community gardens by buying a plot f the garden and picking up their vegetables instead of buying them for the store. Green rooftops can be created on top of a person’s home or a office buildings.

Sources:

Gardening Matters. 2012. Multiple Benefits of Community Gardening. Retrieved from: http://www.gardeningmatters.org/sites/default/files/Multiple%20Benefits_2012.pdf

Green Roof for Healthy Cities. 2014. Green Roof Benefits. Retrieved from: http://www.greenroofs.org/index.php/about/greenroofbenefits

Climate Change Guilt

By this point, many of us have spent years of our lives feeling guilty. We know we buy too much and waste too much. We don’t always eat organic. We drive cars and fly in airplanes even when it’s not strictly necessary. Sometimes we leave the lights on because it’s winter, and it’s dark, and it just feels nice. We’ve learned to think of these lapses as direct contributions to climate change, sinful pleasures that more conscientious people forswore long ago.

It’s entirely possible that some of climate change denial is rooted in an adverse reaction to this very guilt. People who refute the effects of rising emissions are reluctant to believe in something that will instill shame for their most quotidian actions. They can’t bear to accept that every time they let the tap run while brushing their teeth they’re adding to the force of our inexorable doom.

Who can blame them?

In his 2009 article “Forget Shorter Showers,” writer and environmental activist Derrick Jensen posed these questions:

“Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday, or that chopping wood and carrying water would have gotten people out of Tsarist prisons, or that dancing naked around a fire would have helped put in place the Voting Rights Act of 1957 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Then why now, with all the world at stake, do so many people retreat into these entirely personal ‘solutions?’”1

Jensen’s point is to equate the argument behind our constant, personalized guilt about climate change to the old saying, “Finish your dinner – children are starving in [some far-off country].” We knew it then and we know it now: whether or not we eat all that broccoli, there is no way a starving child will benefit from it.

But understanding that disconnect doesn’t stop us from trying to take on a problem the size of humanity at the scale of our individual, day-to-day actions. And here is something we perhaps should feel a little guilty about: for many of us, myself included, it’s easier to imagine that we’re making a dent in the world’s problems by biking to work than it is to join together as a united movement, confront the powers-that-be, and create change at the only level where it will make a difference. As Naomi Klein put it in a 2015 commencement address to the College of the Atlantic,

“The hard truth is that the answer to the question ‘What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?’ is: nothing. You can’t do anything. In fact, the very idea that we—as atomized individuals, even lots of atomized individuals—could play a significant part in stabilizing the planet’s climate system, or changing the global economy, is objectively nuts.”2

By pretending that we can stop climate change through our own tiny good intentions, we may be shirking a harder, scarier, far more imperative task.

I have to admit I can’t quite fathom the “massive and organized global movement” Klein envisions as an alternative to individual simple-living. But maybe the path to that kind of revolution can start as small as the path to a net-zero house or a greywater-fed garden. Instead of taking shorter showers, maybe we should be focusing on something just as easy but much more far-reaching: taking every opportunity to talk about climate change.

Dan Kahan, a Yale Law School professor and member of the Cultural Cognition Project, conducts studies to identify what motivates people to believe or disbelieve in climate change. Kahan found what many social scientists have found before: that most people are primarily motivated to agree with their friends, with the people they trust, and with the prevailing opinions of their social or political groups.3 Does everyone you know already believe in climate change? Then perhaps it’s time to start talking to people you don’t know.

Kahan is careful to stress that the mission of the average believer should not be to educate others about climate change. The scientific community has learned the hard way that throwing facts at the public doesn’t win any converts. What’s needed is more subtle: the creation, through sustained social pressure, of a cultural mindset that acknowledges climate change as a political (not just a scientific) issue, and one that requires action.

Developing such a culture certainly seems like a daunting task. But maybe if we free ourselves from the burden of our own misguided guilt, we’ll at last have the will to confront our neighbors. The less energy we expend in feeling bad about our cars and heating bills, the more we’ll have to think about and talk about and make voting decisions based on climate change, and the more chance we’ll have of swaying those with real power toward policies that will make a measurable difference in the composition of the atmosphere and the future of the planet.

  1. Jensen, D. 2009. Forget shorter showers. Orion Magazine.
    https://orionmagazine.org/article/forget-shorter-showers/
  2. Klein, N. 2015. Climate change is a crisis we can only solve together. Commencement Address, College of the Atlantic. The Nation.
    http://www.thenation.com/article/we-can-only-do-this-together/
  3. Kahan, D.M. The tragedy of the risk-perception commons: culture conflict, rationality conflict, and climate change. Cultural Cognition Project Working Paper No. 89.
    http://www.climateaccess.org/sites/default/files/Kahan_Tragedy%20of%20the%20Risk-Perception%20Commons.pdf