TREE-PLANTING AND BROOKLYN UTOPIAS: ALONG THE CANAL
The visions of more than 200 artists of what a utopian Brooklyn was, is, or could be sprung to life just as spring itself emerged in New York City this year. Arts Gowanus, the Old Stone House, and Washington Park organized an expansive multi-site exhibition titled “Brooklyn Utopias: Along the Canal”. This exhibit included an indoor exhibit at the Old Stone House and two outdoor exhibitions of artwork printed on banners hung on the fences surrounding J.J. Byrne Playground and Coffey Park, all on view from April 10 to June 26, 2022.
My piece, titled “More Trees Please!”, was on display in Coffey Park. When I read about the call for artists to create work that presented a vision for what a utopian Brooklyn might be, the main thing I immediately pictured in my mind’s eye was trees. I envisioned a Brooklyn and entire New York City teeming with an overflow of trees. Since the artwork would be visible in public and streetside, I knew that I wanted to send a message that would have clarity and legibility when seen on the street by pedestrians, bike riders, or passing cars, so I kept the visual elements straightforward and direct.
While trees are incredibly beautiful, the idea of more trees making for a utopian Brooklyn is more than an aesthetic impulse on my part. Trees have the potential to be one of our planet’s greatest solutions in fighting the detrimental effects of climate change, because they have the power to pull heat-increasing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and they provide oxygen. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 100 trees remove 53 tons of carbon dioxide and 430 pounds of other air pollutants per year, trees that are carefully placed can help save on air-conditioning costs in summer and heating expenses in winter, and neighborhoods with more trees even have lower levels of domestic violence.
In late 2021, famed primatologist Jane Goodall launched an initiative called “Trees for Jane” that intends to inspire everyone around the world to plant a trillion trees by 2030 in order to save Earth from the harmful effects of climate change. Her mission is aligned with the United Nations’ Decade on Ecosystem Restoration initiative and the Trillion Trees Campaign. In an Op-ed essay for Time, she wrote, “Between record-setting forest loss and recent warnings about the rapidly ticking climate clock, protecting and restoring our forests must become one of the highest of our planetary priorities. In fact, natural climate solutions, including the restoration and management of forests, grasslands and wetlands, can deliver up to one-third of the emission reductions needed by 2030.”
Feeling inspired by the power of trees and the initiatives launched by Jane Goodall, the United Nations, and the Trillion Trees Campaign, for “Brooklyn Utopias” I wanted to create a bold vector-based digital artwork that visually emphasized the word TREES through scale, color, and value, while the full message of MORE TREES PLEASE remained legible. I believe that the more this simple message spreads through every community, the more it will be on everyday people’s minds. Every person who has a yard has the opportunity to plant and care for at least one tree, but why not plant more?
If you, like me, are an urban apartment dweller with no yard in which to plant trees, there are still many opportunities for you to support tree-planting. Consider fundraising to support tree-planting initiatives, and spread the word about tree-planting to everyone you know! If we all work toward this tree-planting effort, there’s reason to be optimistic about the future on Planet Earth.
It is in this spirit that I am selling shirts and prints of my “MORE TREES PLEASE!” artwork, with a portion of the proceeds going toward tree-planting initiatives and to support Arts Gowanus in its work toward a brighter future by fostering artist and community initiatives such as “Brooklyn Utopias”. I think that this artwork can help raise awareness about tree-planting anywhere it is displayed, whether worn on a shirt, hung on a wall, or printed on a banner in a park.
Spread the word, and, if you are able to plant some trees, please plant as many as possible as soon as possible!