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Parisian Parks
Photo: Su Ann Quah
If one counts the amount of land devoted to parks, Paris is one of the greenest cities in Europe. Almost 30% of the city’s land is found in 450 parks and gardens—about 7,400 acres.

The October 2006 issue of National Geographic magazine includes an article about the places in which Parisians rest and renew their spirits. The number of trees in Paris parks is one of the interesting facts in the piece:  483,000 trees of 120 species, with 2,400 new trees planted annually.

At Jardin Nomade, neighborhood residents grow vegetables and flowers in a community park built on land that had stood vacant for nearly ten years. The article has a picture of some of the 100 gardeners who gather monthly for a soup supper featuring recipes from around the world.

The Promenade Plantee is another example of Parisian creative transformation. An abandoned 19th century railroad viaduct has been turned into a three-mile walkway bordered by bushes and flowers. An additional bonus:  artisans’ workshops and galleries have been built under the arches of the now beautiful and peaceful urban garden.

Food for Thought

Among other points made in the article, the following provide food for thought for those of us who care about urbanites.

1.  “. . .In Chicago, scientists found that each year trees remove some 234 tons of particulates, 98 tons of nitrogen dioxide, 93 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 17 tons of carbon monoxide. Tree leaves block sunlight as well, cooling islands of heat generated by hard city surfaces. The temperature of asphalt or concrete under a shade tree can be as much as 36 degrees F cooler than a patch of pavement in full summer sun; the air up under the canopy of mature trees may be five to ten degrees cooler.

2. “Parks and gardens are also essential to human social and psychological well-being. Without access to grass and trees," says Frances Kuo, "we humans are very different creatures." For the past decade, Kuo and her colleagues at the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory of the University of Illinois have researched the effects of green space on city dwellers.

3. “. . .grass and trees provide a welcoming place for people to gather. In the hectic and crowded ores of cities, people need the little grove of chestnut trees outside their apartments where they can mingle in the shade and hear the hiss of wind in high trees. They need big public lawns where they can play together. . . ."

4. “Scientists suspect that green space also has a restorative effect on our voluntary attention, the kind of intense focus required to work or study, to ignore distractions and concentrate on the task at hand.”

National Geographic editors invite people to explore more of Paris’s parks through pictures posted on-line. Best of all, they want to hear about favorite urban parks at the following blog: www.ngm.com/0610.

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