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What happens if you cut down all of a city's trees? - Stefan Al

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  • TEDEd Animation

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By 2050, it’s estimated that over 65% of the world will be living in cities. We may think of nature as being unconnected to our urban spaces, but trees have always been an essential part of successful cities. Humanity has been uncovering these arboreal benefits since the creation of our first cities thousands of years ago. So what makes trees so important to a city’s survival? Stefan Al explains.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Stefan Al
  • Director Mette Ilene Holmriis
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Animator Mette Ilene Holmriis
  • Storyboard Artist Mette Ilene Holmriis
  • Art Director Mette Ilene Holmriis
  • Compositor Christen Bach
  • Producer The Animation Workshop, Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Music Adam Alexander
  • Sound Designer Adam Alexander
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
We may think of nature as being unconnected to our urban spaces, but trees have always been an essential part of successful cities. In fact, humanity has been uncovering the benefits of city trees for centuries. With more people than ever moving into cities today, how can trees keep our cities alive?

There’s a lot more to trees than meets the eye. If you look around on TED ED, you’ll find a few exciting lessons about trees. For instance, did you know about the ways in which trees can communicate with another through their web of roots? Or, how does the force gravity impact tree growth and what’s the tallest a tree can get?

Today, more cities are planting trees because city officials and urban planners are aware of the many benefits that trees provide. Some cities even provide a public database that maps out their trees and quantifies their benefits. For instance, you can check out each and every single tree of New York City in this tool by NYC Parks, and the benefits they provide in terms of stormwater absorption, energy conservation, air pollution removal, and carbon dioxide reduction. If you want to learn more about the financial benefits that trees provide, you can look at the tools by I-Tree, an organization that is dedicated to quantifying the value of trees around the world. MIT’s sensible cities lab has provided a web based tool that allows you to compare the visible green canopy of different cities, such as Singapore and New York.

As an architect and urban designer, I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities to add trees to our cities. One of those opportunities may be the advent of self-driving cars. As I as I describe in my TED talk, since more people will be sharing cars, there will be less need for city parking. We can then convert parking lots into tiny parks with trees, which really adds up, since some cities have as much as one third of their entire footprint dedicated to parking alone.

What do you think are some of the ways in which we can promote the planting of more trees in cities?


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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Stefan Al
  • Director Mette Ilene Holmriis
  • Narrator Addison Anderson
  • Animator Mette Ilene Holmriis
  • Storyboard Artist Mette Ilene Holmriis
  • Art Director Mette Ilene Holmriis
  • Compositor Christen Bach
  • Producer The Animation Workshop, Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Music Adam Alexander
  • Sound Designer Adam Alexander
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Script Editor Alex Gendler
  • Fact-Checker Eden Girma
  • See more