The modernization of society and the globe is an unstoppable force that continues to transform the people and the planet. Despite the growing role of technology in the world and the continued urbanization of our communities, we must not forget about the importance of biodiversity. The climate is clearly in trouble and by investing in green solutions we can continue to pursue the technology and future society we want while also embracing nature. A number of communities have started to address this problem.
While the concrete jungle is a term that has been around since the 1950s the green jungle in the concrete world is something new. A number of communities have now started to build tiny jungles in their cities of grey to ensure there is enough green in the area. When you consider some of the most built-up places in the world there are people who live in cities that have never seen a park, a forest, or a garden. They spend their entire lives surrounded by high rise apartments and office blocks. The tiny forest revolution is clearly overdue.
To date, we have seen urban forests appear as initiatives in Belgium and France while in the Netherlands a Tony Forest Initiative has begun. These initiatives are all driven by the need to reintroduce the natural world into our dense grey lifeless structures. This is driven by benefits to both mental and physical health as well as the health of the planet. The key driving force behind these initiatives is a theory from a famed botanist named Akira Miyawaki from Japan.
Miyawaki is an expert in botany and he specializes in the area of restoring natural vegetation on degraded land. In basic terms, he can take a dead lifeless area and do miracles. The Miyawaki Method as it is known is based on two principles. The first is to introduce something called “potential natural vegetation” which is what would have existed in a location if the urban sprawl had not taken place. According to Miyawaki plant life that is indigenous to an area has a much greater chance of growing their successfully so by growing plants that should be in an area you have a greater chance of success. This makes sense when you hear it but when Miyawaki studied the forests of Japan he found that there were very few indigenous trees planted which was harming the growth potential.
The second principle of the Miyawaki method is density. In normal forests, about 1,000 seeds are planted per hectare. In the Miyawaki method, it is more like 20,000 to 30,000 per hectare. The idea is to create competition for nutrients and sunlight which makes the seedlings perform better. In a natural setting, these trees may starve because they are fighting over a limited supply of nutrients but the Miyawaki method ensures the plants and trees are well looked after in the first year. This results in growth that is ten times faster than that of a normal forest. In short, the Miyawaki method works.
In Europe, it is now being introduced in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands but it is being applied all around the world as well. India is one country that has shown huge success in the method. Miyawaki is 92 years old and continues to advise on botany projects around the world. His work may be the key to bringing natural elements back to urban landscapes. We hope that this is simply the first step in a large policy shift in how we embrace natural environments in cityscapes. It is what the world and the population need most.