Green cover in the United States

My parents were here to visit us last month. Driving home from JFK airport, after studying the scenery for a long time my father exclaimed, there must be more trees on this highway than in the whole of Bombay put together! It sounded funny then but now that I think about it, it might actually be true.

Our apartment complex in the scenic Hudson River Valley area of New York is surrounded by thick forests on three sides and the Hudson river on the fourth. (It makes me want to sing ‘Gazab Ka Hain Din’ whenever we walk through the woods, but sadly the husband never joins in.) There are several parks, forest areas and picture-postcard farms complete with green pastures, cows, sheep and horses within a five mile radius from home.

The strangest part is that we are only 75 miles away from NYC, probably the greatest urban sprawl in the world. When I worked in the city for the first three months of my stay in the US, I distinctly remember not seeing a single large tree during the ten minute walk from Grand Central Station to my office. They do plant some decorative plants on the sidewalk during the summer, but that’s not the same, is it?

Now as you are about to conclude that there is no hope for New Yorkers, let me tell you about Central Park. According to the website www.centralparknyc.org, the park located in the heart of Manhattan covers 843 acres or 6% of Manhattan’s total acreage and has over 26000 trees and 275 bird species within its boundaries. Talk about mind-boggling statistics!

The final irony to my mind is that most of the homes in this country are wooden. Yes, entire walls, floors and ceilings made of wood. Can you imagine the number of trees they would have to cut to keep building all those houses? Even with my fascination with beautiful homes, I wince whenever I see a new house coming up in our vicinity.

One would then think that the tree cover would be rapidly depleting in this part of the world. Now I do not have the statistics, but the visual evidence definitely suggests otherwise. We usually see miles and miles of dense tree cover on both sides of the freeway on any of our long road trips on the east coast. And the east coast is supposedly one of the most densely populated areas in this country.

Perhaps they just keep the trees lining the freeways for decorative purposes and cut down the forest from within? I sure hope there is a saner explanation behind this mystery. I need to stop and investigate it sometime. Meanwhile, if anyone knows the answer to this one, please enlighten me.

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