Dense urban areas like Hoboken get hotter than suburban and rural areas. The sun heats up the hard surfaces of the brick, glass, concrete and asphalt. These structures absorb and reflect the heat of the sun during the day and radiate the heat throughout the night. People retreat inside their homes, offices and cars to crank up their air conditioners, emitting yet more hot air outside. This is known as the heat island effect which is exacerbated with larger buildings and fewer parks and shade trees. The extreme temperatures of this summer are setting new records. Since 2005, climate change has resulted in the ten hottest days on record, making the need to address this problem ever more urgent.
Shade trees are a critical component of a city’s infrastructure. Through photosynthesis, shade trees sequester carbon dioxide and provide oxygen, essential to human life. Large trees also have the capacity to take up significant volumes of water, thus reducing storm-water runoff. They also are able to remove pollutants from the air, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, thus improving air quality and creating a healthier environment. Trees contribute significantly to the energy efficiency of buildings. Huge London Plane trees in Hoboken’s oldest parks are over 100 years old, demonstrating the long-lasting, economical benefits of investing in shade trees.
A recent research project by a Korean professor studied the relationship between green space and citizen happiness by analyzing data from satellite images of sixty different countries. The analysis focused on cities with the highest population densities. In all the cities, citizen happiness was positively correlated with the area of urban green space. Greater areas of green space were a more important factor than economic growth. An article about this study in the Science Daily stated, “Urban green space, including parks, gardens, and riversides not only provides aesthetic pleasure, but also positively affects our health by promoting physical activity and social interaction.“