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BEYOND TREES: Highlights from Around the World on Urban Forestry and Community Engagement

Urban Forestry and Community Engagement

More than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, and this percentage is growing rapidly. In the United States, 8 out of 10 people live in urban areas.  Globally, close to 70% of the global population will be in urban areas by 2030.   Currently, cities make up 3% of the total land mass, but they consume 70% of manufactured energy.  Cities are also responsible for 70% of carbon emissions.  The population density and subsequent challenges have significant environmental, health-related, and other socio-economic impacts on local communities, both in urban areas but also among rural communities.

Urban nature—including forests, street trees and other green areas (independent of size)—may offer one viable solution to mitigating some of these challenges.  It also includes other types of green spaces such as urban farms and rooftop gardens.  In fact, few other infrastructure investments can add quantifiable value to environmental sustainability, human health, and economic vitality.  To sustain and advance nature-based solutions, one must also engage communities and local populations to become stewards of their urban natural resources.

The U.S. Forest Service International Programs and its partners understand the power of engaging urban communities. Through its annual International Seminar on Urban Forestry and Community Engagement, the agency brings together practitioners from different countries to share and exchange best practices, challenges and emerging issues. This newsletter highlights how our partners especially in the Middle East and North Africa—where the built spaces far outweigh the green ones—are looking closely at urban farming and rooftop gardens to improve lives in the communities.

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