Urban Releaf is a nonprofit organization based in Oakland, California. It deals with the beautification and improvement of the urban forestry. The primary objective is to address the socio-economic and environmental needs of the communities that suffer from less tree canopy. The organization is devoted to the revitalization of the Oakland neighborhood through tree planting that leads to increased job opportunities and enhanced environmental protection awareness among the people.
The organization was incorporated in 1998. They have, however, succeeded in planting more than 15000 trees on the California streets. Weekly tree planting events are planned, and the outcome is reflected in increased volunteering from the community members. The main projects of this organization are:
- Tree planting and maintenance: The program engrosses the community members in the planting of trees in the core urban centers that lacks tree canopy. The staff helps with the maintenance of these trees for the first three years.
- Ecosystem Research: Aims at exploring the various benefits accrued from the trees. These include the social, psychological and economic values of the trees.
- Urban Stewardship Training and Forestry Education: The primary objective of this program is to enlighten the youth. They target at improving the leadership skills of their members. The organization has led to increased awareness among the people of the benefits of planting trees in the streets. They have educated the masses on the value the trees add to their lives and their impact on day-to-day activities.
The greatest downside that the organization faces is the loss of trees due to age, injury or pest invasion. Replacing the trees often takes a long time as the newly planted trees take time to mature. Other challenges include climatic variations and drought. To address these problems adequately, the organization embarks on more and more events planning to create more awareness for the public. They request active participation from the members and volunteering from the neighbors. When tree canopy is enhanced a lot of benefits accrue. In general, the pollution is minimized in the region, poisonous gasses such as carbon monoxide are purified from the air. The atmosphere becomes fresh and serene for everyone in the community. Chronic illnesses are reduced in the locality, thus improving the quality of life. The tree canopy program has several benefits that are felt by the society and at the individual level. The organization’s efforts have a positive impact on the children, the parents, the local businesses and the general community. Each of these derives many benefits from the programs propagated by Urban Releaf.
The society as a whole is the most advantaged in this case. They benefit from the education and training programs held by the organization. The urban heat-island is reduced by the increased tree canopy. Increasing canopy is leading to a rise in the population density in this area. As a result of the various jobs offered by this organization, the unemployment levels are getting reduced day by day. The living standards are thus improving the development and maintenance of a healthy environment. Workers in Oakland are now experiencing less sick time. They are reporting greater job satisfaction that results from the serene working environment provided by the trees. For example, if an employee works in a place surrounded by trees, the view of nature will act as their leverage from cases of stress and exhaustion. The air pollutants have been considerably reduced. Poisonous gasses emitted from the industries, like carbon monoxide and Sulphur gasses, are purified by the trees. The effect of this purification is reflected in the surgery patients who now are recovering faster in this town than in other areas. Health has been improved, as each day there are less and less reported cases of asthma. Business is booming in this region. Several investors are engaging in the sale of fertilizers and tree seeds. The already established businesses are gaining profits daily. The green canopy attracts many buyers in this region, and they pay high prices for the convenience goods provided in the town. The parks that result from the canopy attract many residents who want to take a rest. These people bring revenue to the city thus increasing business activities. For example, opening a candy shop next to a tree park will get a lot of profit, as many people often come to the parks in the afternoon during hot days.
The other group that is a beneficiary of the organization’s program are the children. The beauty brought by the trees often makes them engage in more playing activities. The schools in this institution have kids that totally concentrate. This is a result of the relaxed and serene atmosphere created by the trees that facilitate the learning process. Child development is attributed to a healthy environment generated by the trees. Cases of childhood illnesses that result from street air pollution are reduced in this region. Asthma does not infect the Oakland children. For example, if a child grows in an area that is dense with industries and no trees, they will have no playing grounds and their health will be drastically affected. The parents in this area worry less about their children while playing. They can adequately supervise them while engaging in other activities. Delinquent behaviors of the children can be properly monitored. The parents thus suffer less physical and emotional stress about their children in this locality.
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An interview with a member of the organization revealed the benefits that have resulted from the tree planting programs. He stated that the society benefited the most from the organization’s activities. These advantages range from improved health, increased population, and better living standards. The interviewee responded that many job opportunities were now available in this region as a result of the efforts of the organization. The unemployed youth is getting hired to educate the neighborhood on the values of maintaining and planting new trees.
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