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Tree Hugging | Uplands Labour

Many years I go I acquired a hilarious Excel spreadsheet which tells you your “Ideal Job” when you type in your name.   Playing around with middle names and initials gets different results – my friend Roz Ward, “Office Numpty”, aggrandised herself to Rosalind Ward, MA and became “Prime Minister”, which goes to show just how little difference there is between these two jobs.

I was very pleased with my own result, “Professional Hippy”.  As cabinet member for Future Generations, with responsibility for biodiversity, I feel I have finally arrived at my professional destiny.

Welsh Government demands that we not only preserve the natural world we have, but work to develop it further.  This is because the numbers of species dying out spells disaster for humanity, and the trend must be reversed.  The well-being goal of, “A Resilient Wales” asks us to develop a rich biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, which make us healthier (another well-being goal) and better able to face climate change.

I am glad to be working with our Strategic Planning and Natural Resources Team, such knowledgeable and committed experts, developing firmer policies to help protect our trees and hopefully plant more.  We are also looking to create enhanced biodiversity corridors linking our rural areas; this will hopefully brighten up and re-green some neglected urban spots too.

The benefits of trees are immense.  I used to get the bus across Swansea to the top of Bernard Street and walk its whole length, loving the green shade and wishing I could live there – how lucky I feel now.  This list of 20 amazing things a tree does goes to show how important they are for individual, community and global well-being and underlines how shameful it is that the UK is one of the least wooded parts of Europe, having only 12% tree cover compared to around 37% elsewhere.

Trees are often viewed as a nuisance, particularly by those wishing to develop land and create buildings.  Developers may be required to plant new trees but this can still lead to losses of old, large trees which make a far greater contribution to the environment than young ones.  Also, such developments can restrict tree diversity, removing one species and over-planting another. If pests or disease strike, attacking a particular species, a diverse tree stock makes us less vulnerable to large losses. Fortunately, architectural fashion is changing – the organic, rounded lines of the natural world are becoming more popular than right-angles and blocks.  I wonder if we’ll see more imaginative designs emerging which work alongside established trees rather than removing them.

It is often said that the best things in life are free, or impossible to put a figure on.  Reports have calculated the cash savings trees bring to councils which, without them, would see increased costs in: sewerage charges; damage costs from air pollution; carbon emissions etc.  I hope that in the next five years, Swansea Council will lead changes helping us to literally value the natural world around us.

Cllr. Mary Sherwood