Do you notice, like me, that our city and our county look greener? And I’m not just talking about all the recent rains that have left our streets and yards littered with debris.
Instead, while Honolulu has long benefited from a large tree population that helps break down the beige of many duplexes and skyscrapers, recent efforts by government, private sectors, and nonprofits are making the even greener communities.
It’s a good trend that promises a better home and a better planet. This idea needs to be more widely adopted as tree advocates seek to grow an urban canopy. As the nonprofit Trees For Honolulu’s Future says, Honolulu’s canopy covers only 20% of the city, far behind other cities nationwide.
More on that in a moment. Let’s start by commending state and county officials who have embarked on tree planting and protection efforts.
In September, Gov. David Ige’s administration announced the goal of conserving, restoring or growing 100 million trees statewide by 2030.
“Forest carbon projects remove carbon dioxide (CO2), the greenhouse gas largely responsible for global climate change, and store it in trees or other biomass. Actions planned until the end of this decade will contribute to our net negative carbon target. Suzanne Case, president of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, said in a press release.
Case pointed out that in 2017, Hawaii’s forests sequestered 2.69 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The new initiative is linked to the campaign of a group called 1t.org, whose goal is to plant 1,000 billion trees around the world by 2030. It is part of the World Economic Forum’s efforts to accelerate nature-based solutions put in place to support the United Nations’ Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.
The DLNR has expressed its attachment to trees in other ways as well. In early November, it hosted its fifth annual Ohia Love Festival, which celebrates the state’s endemic trees. It coincided with Arbor Day – November 6 – when DLNR’s Forestry and Wildlife Division handed out thousands of trees for free.
The adoptions were made possible through partnerships on Oahu with Trees for Honolulu’s Future, the Malama Learning Center and Ke Kula Nui O Waimanalo; on Maui with the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens; and in Kauai with the Garden Island Resource Conservation and Development.
Trees do more than improve air and water quality. They also have an impact on the health and well-being of communities.
On a personal note, I can testify that spending about 20 minutes a day watching the giant ulu and mango trees in my Manoa yard lowers my blood pressure and helps me get through another endless day of pandemic.
And in December, DLNR announced a $ 1.6 million grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help protect Oahu’s forests from invasive species, reducing the risk of flooding and landslides, cleaning water for coastal ecosystems, having fewer brown water days and causing less stress on corals. reefs.
“Before the people arrived, almost all of the Hawaiian Islands were covered with native forests and scrub,” a press release explained. “Oahu has now lost over 80% of its original native forest. “
Native vegetation, the DLNR explained, absorbs rain and moisture from clouds and moves it quickly through the ground like a “giant living sponge.”
The city and county of Honolulu are also in the field of tree planting.
In October, the Urban Forestry Division of the Department of Parks and Recreation planted 44 street trees – tulip, white tecoma, geometry, and silver trumpet – in the downtown Chinatown area.
Mayor Rick Blangiardi, City Councilor Radiant Cordero and other officials celebrated Arbor Day by planting five new trees – including two rainbow shower gold nii – at Connie Chun Aliamanu Neighborhood Park.
“Looking at the long term, planting a tree is one of the best things we can do to profoundly benefit future generations,” Blangiardi said in a press release. “It is especially important to involve our keiki in this process, so that children can grow up with trees and have an innate appreciation for the many environmental, economic and psychological benefits of trees.”
The press release adds that trees reduce soil temperature by up to 9 degrees, minimize energy costs by up to 25% by shading buildings, and absorb traffic noise by 40%.
In the same month, the Urban Forestry Division of the City’s Parks and Recreation Department announced a new partnership with the School to Review Essential Sustainability Issues for Planting and Maintaining Native Plants and Trees at the Liliuokalani Botanical Garden. downtown.
The plants included many native and “canoe” ground covers – referring to plants introduced by Hawaiians centuries ago – and shrubs and trees: mao, ilima, pia, pau o hiiaka and more.
The Honolulu trees initiative is not new. In 2019, Oahu announced a plan to plant 100,000 trees across Oahu by 2025.
But efforts have clearly intensified. Mahi Pono – the Maui-based farming company – said in November that it had passed the milestone of planting a million trees at her farm in central Maui, where sugar cane was once harvested.
Mayor Mike Victorino was among those in attendance for a celebration of citrus fruits – lime, lemon, tangelo, tangerine and grapefruit – as well as coffee, avocado, papaya and even windbreak plants like panax, the hau and the milo. The millionth plant was ulu, a type of breadfruit and staple food crop in the greater Pacific.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit ReTree Hawaii, also known as La Hooulu Paemoku, was formed three years ago to raise awareness of the climate crisis and encourage the planting of trees to help mitigate it.
This goal was shifted into high gear throughout November, when plantings were planned on all islands except Niihau. This was the second year in a row that ReTree Hawaii has led such a campaign.
“People are more aware of the climate crisis and that something needs to be done,” chief organizer Rob Weltman told me, adding that ReTree depends on government grants for its work.
He said the Covid-19 crisis has had the unexpected benefit of causing more people to garden at home: “They have the satisfaction of planting something and seeing it grow. “
Dan Dinell, president of Trees for Honolulu’s Future, welcomes the increased attention to trees, but cautions against being overly optimistic.
“I think the challenge at the government level is that we still have departments that are working against the grain,” he told me. “And what I mean by that is that there could be a tree removal by Department X and tree planting by Department Y.”
His argument is that, taken in isolation, actions can make sense but effectively cancel each other out.
Dinell – whose nonprofit is on its board of directors, Roxanne Adams, arborist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, former city councilor Ann Kobayashi and executive director of The Outdoor Circle Winston Welch, also advises that the selection and location of the tree is only the first step. .
“Once that’s done, the really essential aftercare is the care of the tree – and that’s an ongoing challenge,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to motivate people to plant, but less of the weeding and pruning that a three needs to grow and be safe, healthy, and sustainable. “