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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Green lungs

Green Oasis
by Mary Margaret
Photo credit Cynthia L

Breathe in the oxygen rich air. Let your eyes feast upon the green leaves. Open your ears to the call of birds or the absence of traffic. Feel life below your feet. Listen with all your senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and feel – listen with your soul. You are in a green oasis – the small patches of green which dot the concrete deserts of cities. You feel life awakening in every nerve. Breathe in and . . .
Kuching has been called a garden city because there are many green places (green oasis) dotting the city landscape - from the grass covered Central Padang which is shaded by many fantastically old trees; to the Museum Gardens and Reservoir Park (now known as Taman Budaya); to the manicured lawns of Friendship Park; to the home gardens and patches of grass in subdivisions; to Sama Jaya Nature Reserve in Tabuan Jaya. We in Kuching are truly fortunate to have so many green places.

These parks are an important part of the urban landscape for many reasons. The first reason that pops into mind is recreation. The parking lots at Sama Jaya Forest Reserve and Reservoir Park are full in the late afternoon as many people living in Kuching go walking or jogging or running. Exercise, as does nature, reduces stress. Families and friends are out taking in a breath of fresh.
A quick visit to an urban park can let us reconnect to nature. We attempt to control the environment in which we live by, for example building houses and air conditioning them (in the tropics) or heating them (in temperate areas) – and even here our actions are affected and controlled by the weather and climate – elements of the natural world. So the visit to Sama Jaya Forest Reserve is a reminder that we are part of the natural world. We can feel a sense of spiritual renewal when we make this reconnection.

A Refuge
Parks and gardens provide a refuge for nature. All sorts of birds, insects, mammals and other animals can be seen in the park – if you stop to listen and look. A quiet stretch at one of the small gazeboes (‘pondok’) in Sama Jaya Forest Park will let you into the secret lives of birds as small forest birds flit from tree to tree. Squirrels and Long-Tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) flit from tree top to tree top as they look down at the runners who are staring up at them. Frogs and lizards make this minute patch of forest and small streams home too. It is here that nature can exist side by side with cities. Thus urban parks can be a living classroom for visitors to experience the joys of nature first hand.

Keeping Cool
A tree lined street is just so much cooler than one edged with concrete walls. The temperature is noticeably cooler under the ballooning branches of a tree. We actively seek the shade during hot days. Trees not only cool the air, but are carbon sinks – they store a lot of carbon in their woody trunks, roots and branches. Carbon Dioxide one of the main pollutants contributing to the warming of the Earth is also a key ingredient in the process of photosynthesis. This is the process in which green plants use the energy from to build complex substances from Carbon Dioxide and water. And another end product is Oxygen which is released into the air. The Carbon which is used to build these complex substances remains tied up until plant dies and decomposes or used as a source of energy, for example the burning wood.

Sama Jaya Nature Reserve
The 38-hectare Sama Jaya Nature Reserve is an important green patch in Tabuan Jaya and for other areas of Kuching. This small patch of mainly secondary forest is the focus for the volunteer driven community events for the Trees For Life Project, a jointly organized activity by the Malaysian Nature Society – Kuching Branch and the Sarawak Forest Cooperation. This project started in July 2007 and aimed to stress the vital roles of trees in safeguarding the environment and reducing the impact of global warming. Volunteers have planted and maintained trees. There have also been many learning and thought provoking activities. The volunteers have given to an urban park which has probably made their lives more pleasant.

In short urban parks, green lungs, green oasis are key parts of the city landscape because they:
• places to relax and exercise
• refuge for wildlife
• create pleasantly green landscapes
• provide shade
• reduce pollution
• provide educational opportunities
• provide opportunities for connecting with nature.

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