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Interview with Craig Hinton, Enspec Environment & Risk, Australia

Speaker day 2: The Role of Tree Population Data in Promoting Tree Benefits

Cathy Frossard, Marketing Consultant on the Trees, People and Built Environment 3 Conference, interviews Craig Hinton on his views of the upcoming conference.

Craig Hinton

There are those who maintain that, now most of us live in towns and cities, our deep cultural relationship with trees has been broken and is no longer viable. What are your thoughts on this statement and do you think that it is a role of urban forestry to re-kindle this relationship?

I agree with this. My extensive experience dealing with “customer requests”, in local government convinced me that there is a disconnect between most urban people and the natural systems that support life. As a practical, tangible and in your face, part of the urban environment, urban forests are probably the best way to reconnect urban communities with natural systems.  The difficulty we have is countering the fear mongering and self-interest involved in the public discourse about trees. Being able to discuss concrete, quantifiable costs and benefits has a strong, positive impact on decision makers.

What do you think makes the Urban Forest important and how do you think we can unify different urban planning sectors to work together?

I think that most of our environmental problems on a global scale are not addressed because most people do not understand their place in the ecosystem, and the complete reliance we have on natural systems to support life. The urban forest is the best, and possibly the only, way to reconnect urban humans with nature and the ecosystems  that keep them alive.

How can we convince people such as planners and engineers about the value of the health benefits of trees?

The key is to shift the perspective of trees from being a liability, or at best, a non-quantifiable, to being an asset. It is the natural inclination of planners and engineers to protect assets, so once they recognise the tree as an asset, it is easy to get them to consider preservation and protection. Being able to apply real values also helps to evaluate competing needs. It is also important to be realistic about trees. In some cases, other priorities do outweigh the tree, and we must be careful not to exaggerate our case as this discredits us as a profession in the eyes of people making decisions from an empirical perspective.

Do you envisage any potential change in the role of trees and the urban forest in our Urban Futures?

I think that the role of the trees is established by their form and function. I believe there will be a positive change in the perception of that role and its value. Unfortunately I think many of our urban communities will become more desolate before that change brings back a balance between the built and natural environment.

Thank you Craig, looking forward to hearing you speak at the conference.

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