Posts Tagged ‘benefits’

Photo: Suzanne and John’s Mom.
A tree canopy benefits any community.

After one of my posts on the importance of urban trees, Hannah sent me a 2021 report on what Philadelphia had started doing.

Katherine Rapin wrote at the Philadelphia Citizen, “Imagine, for a moment, it’s 2025 and you have a bird’s eye view of Philadelphia. As you scan the stadiums up to William Penn’s hat and beyond, you see a whole lot of verdant green amid the concrete as much as 40 of the city’s 142 square miles.

“These trees are purifying our air; storing tons of carbon dioxide; and reducing residential energy costs. Their masses of living roots absorb and hold water, reducing flooding, and their leaf canopy lessens the impact of rain drops on the ground, decreasing erosion. Their shade and transpiration magic is reducing temperatures by as much as 20 degrees. And they’re raising property values: Houses on streets with a lot of trees see a 10 percent boost in their sales price.

“The City’s goal is to increase our tree canopy to 30 percent by 2025 as part of the Greenworks program. …

“ ‘The big problem is that, for the last several decades at least, we as a city have not been planting enough trees to make up for the trees that naturally die or are lost to development,’ says Tim Ifill, Director of Trees at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society [PHS].

“Granted, the decline would be worse if not for the efforts of programs like Tree Philly, launched by the City in 2011 along with Greenworks to give free sidewalk and yard trees to building owners who would care for them, which has given away more than 20,000 trees. … And PHS, which has been fighting to catch up with canopy loss through their Tree Tenders program — training more than 5,000 volunteers who have collectively planted over 25,000 trees in their neighborhoods.

“ ‘Every neighborhood is different,’ says Ifill. ‘Both from a canopy perspective but also for the types of people who get involved and how they decide to set up their tree tenders group.’ In East Passyunk tenders worked with PHS to establish an urban arboretum, mapping about 40 different tree species … in the neighborhood. In Hunting Park, Esperanza partnered with PHS to host the first bilingual tree tender training — their group has been among the most dedicated tenders since, says Ifill.

“If you’re tree tender curious, join the fall tree planting bonanza this week; from November 17th-21st, PHS Tree Tender groups and community orgs and volunteers will plant more than 1,350 trees (60 different species!) across the city. No prior tree-planting experience is required; volunteers will be led by at least one official Tree Tender who knows the ins and outs of this process well. …

“[Here are] some of Philly’s least green neighborhoods, according to conservation nonprofit American Forests’ recently released Tree Equity Score map. The Equity Score measures the gap between targeted tree canopy in a given block group — considering population density and climate as well as income level, employment rate, race, age distribution, health outcomes and heat island impact — and existing coverage. …

“To get all block groups to a score of 75 or higher, we’d need to plant 198,923 trees here in Philly. Compare that to Washington DC, which only needs 28,121 more trees to achieve the same goal. And the city isn’t far from their targeted 40 percent canopy coverage by 2032.

“Planting nearly 200,000 trees here in Philly would save an estimated 106,165 cubic meters of runoff; remove 14.6 tons of particulate matter pollution; and sequester 2,707.4 tons of carbon every year. And they [studies show they] reduce violence and increase mental health. …

“ ‘Even in a built environment like Philadelphia, we’re all part of nature and we have that connection with trees, with plants,’ says Ifill.” More at the Citizen, here.

I was unable to find out how the trees being planted in the 2021 article are doing now, but there were many sites covering the ongoing planting and protection of trees in Philadelphia.

The USDA Forest Service, here, described the work of Michelle Kondo, a Northern Research Station scientist, who “studies the many benefits trees provide and the ways cities are investing in programs to expand tree cover.”

The City of Philadelphia wrote that the Department of Commerce and Philadelphia Parks and Recreation were “collaborating on a new proactive model for community-based maintenance of street trees. The TCB Cleaning Ambassadors scope of work would be expanded to encompass tree care while receiving training and being paid for the additional hours of work involved. For the past two years, the William Penn Foundation also provides funding support to the Overbrook Environmental Education Center (OEEC) expanding their Philly Green Ambassador (PGA) pilot program. The program enhances the careers of PHL TCB Cleaning Ambassadors by teaching tangible skills related to environmental stewardship.” 

And PHS has a lot more as it leads in spreading the word that “the Greater Philadelphia region still needs more trees. While a ‘good’ tree canopy coverage (the area of land shaded by trees) is considered to be 30% of land area, the city of Philadelphia only has 20% coverage and as little as 2.5% in some neighborhoods.” Apparently cities like Washington are much farther along in reaching their canopy goals.

Find your city, here. on a 2023 list of urban areas with the best tree canopy. Minneapolis is at the top.

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Photo: Nicole Leeper on Unsplash.
Learn why many people say child care benefits are essential to a strong economy.

When Suzanne and four other women running Rhode Island businesses talked to Vice President Kamala Harris recently, the subject of child care came up a lot. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who was also present, emphasized that to reboot the economy, we need the more than 2 million women Covid forced out of work to come back — and they can’t come back if they have no child care. Child care is infrastructure just like bridges and roads.

Now imagine how hard it has always been for people who lose benefits like child care support when their earnings inch even a tiny bit over the poverty level.

At the Washington Post, Zoe Sullivan describes the ongoing challenges.

“In October 2016, Georgia Allen got a phone call that changed her life. At the time, Allen, 35, was a single parent living in Madison, Wis., with a 3-year-old daughter. To cover her $925 monthly rent and keep her daughter in day care, Allen worked two jobs at a hospital, answered calls part time at a domestic violence center and held down a side hustle caring for elderly people and children. Even with a $300 state subsidy, Allen had to pay another $1,200 out of pocket for her daughter’s care.

“The caller told Allen that she had reached what she calls the ‘benefits cliff’: She was earning too much to qualify for the health- and child-care benefits she was receiving. Yet without those benefits, Allen couldn’t make ends meet.

‘I get emotional thinking about it, because I was just so frustrated,’ Allen said. ‘I finally get to 16, 17 dollars an hour, and the journey was so hard because I couldn’t go to school and have child care. I had to choose one or the other.’ …

“Although Allen adjusted her work schedule after that October call so she wouldn’t lose her benefits, she ultimately lost her job. …

“ ‘It took me several months of a lot of prayer,’ Allen said about finding her new direction in that period. One day, in tears, Allen had a revelation that the different jobs she’d held were all training for running a business. With families like her own in mind, Allen envisioned a cooperative network of home-based child-care sites that would not only ensure that low-wage-earning parents could secure quality child care but also provide living-wage employment to caregivers.

“The challenges and disparities Allen faced existed long before the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis, however, has exacerbated these challenges for many families and underscored the argument that caring for children is an essential service. Without child care, front-line workers, whether supermarket employees or doctors, can’t go to work. …

“In Allen’s home state of Wisconsin, only child-care programs that participate in the state’s ranking system can accept the subsidies low-income families receive. But on the flip side, those subsidies often don’t fully cover the cost of care at high-quality facilities. …

“ ‘If economic stability isn’t happening, and people are choosing alternative child-care options because child care is expensive or not accessible, that will affect the educational journey that our children will face. So, I started to see how it was all connected,’ [Allen] said. …

“Julia Henly, a University of Chicago social work professor, framed the challenge: ‘Child care needs to be super flexible and variable around parents’ work schedules, but child-care workers themselves are low-wage workers who, you know, we kind of are expecting them to carry the caregiving needs of other low-wage workers, and I just think that is not really sustainable.’

“These are the conundrums Allen aims to solve. In mid-2019, she met someone who took seriously her two-pronged approach of simultaneously addressing both employment and child-care needs. That was Abha Thakkar, executive director of a community development organization, the Northside Planning Council, which focuses on that sparsely served area of Madison.

“Now the NPC is helping Allen and her team build a round-the-clock, in-home child-care network with support on a business proposal, and by facilitating connections to grant-makers and lenders. The network’s home-based care sites will be supported by a central location that, along with offering care, will also train providers, prepare meals for the in-home satellites, and handle the back-office tasks.

“One of the central elements of Allen’s plan is that families who participate in this child-care network won’t face the sort of spike in costs that threatened to derail her after that 2016 phone call.

“ ‘This platform, for the parents, when they get to that benefits cliff, there is an option,’ Allen said. She points to a plan for a sliding pay scale and case management to help parents navigate the transition away from public benefits as they grow their incomes. …

“ ‘This model is going to be a hybrid,’ Thakkar says. ‘You don’t want a worker-owned co-op to be a nonprofit [because] the whole point is wealth-building,’ she said. As a result, the Northside Planning Council will serve as a nonprofit fiscal sponsor while the co-op develops its business.”

More at the Washington Post, here.

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Pedestrians take advantage of some sunshine to walk down the High Line park in New York

Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters
More than just a tourist attraction, Manhattan’s High Line is a development destination, says author Richard Florida.

Have you walked on Manhattan’s High Line when it’s not too crowded? It is a magical linear garden high above the dusty streets of the city.

And what about the magnificent parks in New York?

I’m in the city now and, having had beautiful walks in the extraordinary Central Park, am determined do a post soon on the genius of designer Frederick Law Olmsted and the supporters who made his urban landscapes possible.

Today’s post, however, is on the economic value of beauty in cities — not that beauty ever needs to be justified in terms of dollars and cents. But it’s worth noting.

Richard Florida asks at CityLab whether cities “benefit from a beauty premium? According to a new study by two urban economists, it seems that they do.

“The study by Gerald A. Carlino of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Albert Saiz of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, examines the connection between a city’s beauty and key growth indicators. A raft of previous studies have found a connection between economic and population growth and urban amenities (a broad category ranging from parks to restaurants, art galleries, and museums). But this study takes a much closer look at the effects of beauty itself.

“To get at this, the researchers measure attractiveness in a unique way: through tourist visits and photos of picturesque locations. … The study compares its own measure of urban beauty to more established measures of urban amenities such as parks, historic spaces, proximity to coastlines, bodies of waters or mountains, the size of the tourism industry, and more. ..

“The study finds evidence of a significant beauty premium for cities and neighborhoods. A city with twice as many picturesque locations as another city saw 10 percent growth or greater in population and jobs from 1990 to 2010. In fact, urban beauty ties with lower taxes as the most important predictor of overall population growth in cities. Plus, these cities disproportionately attract greater numbers of college graduates. Cities in the top 25 percent of picturesqueness saw nearly 3 percent higher growth in the number of college grads than those in the bottom 25 percent. …

“City beauty is not an effect of size, the study finds: Smaller and medium-sized places with more parks, historic buildings, proximity to water and mountains, and clearer skies and less rain are perceived as beautiful as well.

“It’s not just metros broadly that benefit from an urban beauty premium, it’s specific neighborhoods within them. A large number of studies have documented the back-to-the-city movement of younger, more educated, and more affluent people to the urban center. These studies typically document the urban influx into neighborhoods near the Central Business District (CBD), the downtown commercial core of a city. …

“Urban beauty is a powerful tool for economic growth and urban resurgence, but with it comes gentrification and displacement. As the authors of the study put it: ‘Rents, incomes, and educational attainment increased faster in urban beautiful neighborhoods but at the cost of minority displacement.’

“Urban policy makers have to take in the full costs, as well as the benefits, of urban beautification into account. They could mandate that developers who create new condominiums adjacent to publicly created and valued amenities pay more in taxes, provide some affordable housing, or employ local residents in their projects. Cities can devote the increased revenues from beautification projects to affordable housing, workforce development, and the reduction of concentrated poverty.”

Read more here.

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I have often noticed how absorbed and peaceful an ordinarily boisterous child can be when doing artwork. I myself feel happy when I have accomplished something creative —  even a little bit creative.

It’s nice to know but will surprise no one that research supports the idea that being creative makes people feel good.

Here’s a report from the BBC.

“Whatever gets your creative juices flowing will boost your mood, according to new research.

“Almost 50,000 people took part in the BBC Arts Great British Creativity Test. It suggested that being creative can help avoid stress, free up mind space and improve self-development, which helps build self-esteem.

“The findings also said there are emotional benefits from taking part in even a single session of creativity. But there are cumulative benefits from regular engagement in arts activities and trying new pursuits is particularly good for our emotions and well-being. …

“76% of participants used creative activities as a ‘distraction tool’ to block out stress and anxiety; 69% used them as a ‘self-development tool’ to build up self-esteem and inner strength; 53% used them as a ‘contemplation tool’ to get the headspace to reflect on problems and emotions.

“The survey also revealed that the most benefit comes from taking part in live creative activities that involve face-to-face social interaction, like singing in a choir or taking part in a group painting class. …

“Dr Daisy Fancourt, a senior research fellow at UCL [said], ‘You don’t actually have to take part for a long time for it to have benefits. … Also, we find that for somebody who’s been doing the same activity for more than 10 years, it actually starts to have less of an effect. So there’s a definite benefit to novelty.

” ‘And we also found that talent doesn’t affect this relationship. It’s not about being good at it — it’s genuinely the taking part that counts.’ ”

Of the top ten creative choices reported, singing comes in first. Read the others at the BBC, here.

I loved the part about getting headspace. That makes so much sense to me. If you are going around in circles with a problem, do something creative for a while. When you come back to the problem, you will be able to see new possibilities.

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