A Healthy Dose of Green
“A mounting volume of research over the past 30 years indicates that the health of our forests has a direct impact on our own personal health.”
Without a healthy ecosystem we can’t sustain a healthy planet and we will surely compromise the health of our children and future generations. In order to improve our environment and our personal health, we must all be a part of the solution.
Our health and well-being are intricately interconnected with the health of our natural environment. Trees and forests are integral components of healthy ecosystems that support healthy human populations.
Trees help to reduce smog and pollution in our cities by filtering out many airborne pollutants that
have negative impacts on our health, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide and particulates. These pollutants have been linked to heart disease, respiratory illnesses, diabetes and cancer.
Forests and green spaces have also been linked to a significant decline in stress, improved rehabilitation, faster hospital recovery rates, and a decrease in the severity of symptoms in attention deficit disorders.
Experts have determined that a minimum 30 per cent forest cover is required to maintain a healthy, sustainable ecosystem. Currently, forest cover is as low as five per cent in some regions of Ontario’s settled landscape, compromising the health of our ecosystems and their inhabitants.
The decline in forest cover is evident in both rural and urban landscapes in Ontario. In the settled regions, rural forests have been diminished as a result of increased population density, agricultural land uses and a rapid growth in residential and commercial development. Trees and forests in urban areas face their share of challenges including pollution, climate change, introduced pests, competing demand for root space, disease and old age. Ontario now has severely fragmented forests in both rural and urban areas, threatening species migration, wildlife habitats, water cycles and climate regulation.
Efforts to enrich our forest ecosystems will contribute to the stability and resiliency of the ecosystems we inhabit. To enhance the health of our ecosystems and to better prepare Ontario to adapt to climate change, tree planting efforts must involve both rural and urban initiatives.
A growing body of evidence suggests that human mental and physical health is closely associated with the health of our forest ecosystems. Consequently, poor environmental conditions may lead to an increase in the incidence of a wide array of illnesses.
Billions of dollars are spent annually on health care services to treat symptoms; however, comparatively little is invested in addressing the root causes of many commonly occurring diseases. Restoring the health and integrity of our forests, can be viewed as a preventative health measure and will contribute to our collective health and well-being.
Trees Ontario intends to initiate an interdisciplinary dialogue where the health sector, forestry industry, research community, environmental groups and government agencies can discuss and investigate
the myriad of relationships between ecosystem health and human health. By highlighting the links between human health and the health of rural and urban forests, Trees Ontario hopes to increase support for tree planting initiatives and stimulate collaborative action to significantly enhance and restore forest cover across Ontario.