With weekly news reports of climate disasters, cities nationwide are absorbing the latest climate science to figure out their next steps. Here, I note how nature-based approaches could work for Newark.
The science finds that the combination of traditional walkable neighborhood design (pre-1960) for proximity to everyday needs – what I’ll call “naturalized mobility” – and today’s naturalized green infrastructure policies together could form a “Walkable, Greenable, Cool Newark.”
The approach calls for re-allocating part of the roughly 25 percent of the city in public right-of-way for car-centric use (Delaware’s largest GHG source) to use for nature to sponge-up floodwaters, and add cooling ecosystem services in tree-lined, garden-edged “nature walks.”
Naturalizing is local. It takes local leadership to zone-in, code-in the new science-based naturalized well-being. Let Newark be the lead “Cool City” of Delaware. The good news is that the city already has the “good bones” in place and the wise professional staff to apply the best science to depave, infiltrate, green, shade, cool and otherwise naturalize Newark to the new climate
In turn, this would support the nationwide –and Newark—trend of homeowners re-landscaping their own properties from lawn to naturalized landscapes.
It’s a New Urban Land Ethic. But unlike Aldo Leopold’s plea for a far-away pristine “wilderness esthetic”, today’s science (and UD’s Doug Tallamy in “Nature’s Best Hope”) calls for nature right in our backyard, reintroducing nature’s ecosystem services into urbanism, to take advantage of their zero-carbon cooling efficiency where 80 percent of Americans live.
Such interlinked systemic changes cascading across all systems of Newark achieves what science calls Transformation, the scope required to reach net zero … and doing so, “in-time” to matter: GHG peaking by 2025, cut 50 percent by 2030, and zero by 2040 to 2050.
Certainly, a city design that may be overcommitted to the car and car-scale, but a little undercommitted to natural systems and their linked human-scaled walkable neighborhoods, offers opportunities. Here’s some:
Cool shade, cool
An unshaded dark gray house wall in summer receives up to approximately 160 BTU/SF/hour of solar irradiation, but shading the wall has the effect of lowering the outside air temperature by 37 F, and a triple-shade approach (tree canopy, native shrubs, ground-cover + wall-cover vines) will cool it up to -45F. An Oxford study found that vines alone reduced the inside wall temperature by approximately 60 percent . With 3-layers of shading, a brick wall has enough thermal mass to damp out daily temperature fluctuations. But painting the wall white for higher reflectivity will reduce solar heat absorbance from 70 percent to only 10 percent--so both whiten, and shade to comfort.
Natural A/C; water is the cooling ‘refrigerant’
Evaporation and evapotransporation are huge, often ignored, natural ‘coolth’ systems. Just one mature beech tree has the coolth of one-million BTUs — the equivalent of 10 room-sized ACs operating 20 hours a day. Your house surrounded by a forest garden, with natural soil moisture, will have its own cool microclimate all summer, just like any forest does —“natural AC”. Since water infiltration is the precious ‘refrigerant,’ disconnect downspouts from drains to “keep your coolth.” And leave your leaves—they are the nutrition cycle for next spring’s cooling growth. Certainly, don’t add toxic chemicals: they take the life out of nature. Instead, add composted kitchen ‘waste’, i.e., rich fertilizer.
In sum, dedicate at least 50 percent of your lot to moist, native shade-forest. Since unshaded asphalt driveways are solar frying pans heating up to 120F-150F, shade them. When practical, cover them with drive-over bark mulch. At unused areas, cover them in moist soil. Let nature—the “other system”--grow and ‘coolth’ them.
Living among nature’s wildflowers, butterflies and songbirds, is a living delight
- the ‘return to the garden.’ It will support physical and mental health: as global warming get hotter, Cool Newark will have the flourishing nature to better endure it, living the lifestyle that stops making it worse.
The Conservation Advisory Commission was created in 1977 to advise the city of Newark in the development, management and protection of its natural resources, with appropriate consideration of Newark’s human and economic resources. It meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in council chambers. The public is invited to attend and provide input. Commission members provide this monthly column to inform area residents on conservation issues.
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