In the age of air conditioners, we are belittling trees

By The Van   April 3, 2023 | 05:00 pm PT
In the age of air conditioners, we are belittling trees
Trees line up on Huyen Tran Cong Chua Street in HCMC's District 1, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Phong Vinh
Damaging sidewalks, leaves blocking drain holes, are among the reasons some people use to object to the planting of trees along city streets, forgetting that trees are super natural air conditioners.

Saigon is entering its dry and peak hot season, and in recent weeks, I've already felt the heat, especially at mid-day beginning from 11 a.m. If I have to go outside, it's a painful experience. One recent day the weather app on my phone predicted high UV rays and advised me to avoid the sun until 4 p.m.

I've noticed that people tend to wrap themselves up to avoid the sun. Avoiding direct sunlight helps, but it's still hot. The heat seeps in from within, from the roads, and from buildings.

Regarding the story of Le Loi Street, whether to build a roof or plant trees, I prefer trees. Trees don't necessarily have to be big. It's possible to plant low trees with dense foliage or create trellises to grow vines. What's important is to add more green areas to the city.

I've also discovered that some people underestimate the value of trees because they have air conditioning. Their argument is that tree roots damage sidewalks, leaves falling cause blockages in drains, and trees topple over during the rainy season. Some even say that now all buildings have air conditioning, and cars and taxis have air conditioning, so they don't need trees on the street.

This is mistaken thinking about the value of trees and their role in human life.

People may underestimate trees because they think air conditioning provides them with cooler and more comfortable air than trees. However, trees are an essential part of the living environment and have many benefits for humans. Trees create green spaces and have a positive impact on people's mental and physical health.

Once, some friends came to my house during the hottest part of the day, and we relaxed and lay on hammocks under the shade of the trees in my garden.

At night, we don't need air conditioning to sleep (even though many houses in my hometown have air conditioning). Just a fan is enough, and the air is much cooler than in the city. At 3-4, it even turns cold due to the trees.

In Saigon, when walking along tree-lined streets like Nguyen Binh Khiem, Huyen Tran Cong Chua, or Truong Dinh, I feel very cool and comfortable. But when I turn onto streets without trees, I feel like I've entered a different world because of the heat.

Just waiting for 30 seconds at a red light makes me feel impatient and uncomfortable.

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