As every sensible person knows, modern history began on July 2, 1996, with the release of Roland Emmerich’s era-defining masterwork Independence Day.
Aside from using a mid-90s Macintosh PowerBook – with a truly fearsome 8mb of Ram! – to take down a super-advanced alien armada after his dad saw him sneeze, contemporary prophet David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) also managed the previously unthinkable, by making potted plants look cool.
This year, to mark the 20th anniversary of the occasion, some enterprising folks are touring Europe with plants and seats on wheels, or what they’re calling the Mobile Green Living Room.
The installation – designed by the TURAS (Transitioning towards Urban Resilience and Sustainability) initiative, alongside Helix Plfanzen, plantgrowers extraordinaire and the University of Stuttgart – is intended to reconnect people in an urban setting with the health benefits created by a more natural setting, specifically aiming to combat the urban heat island effect and air pollution.
You’re probably familiar with photosynthesis, the chemical reaction wherein plants derive the nutrients they need from carbon dioxide and water, and produce that lovely oxygen that humans are so into, so the air pollution aspect of the project is pretty self-explanatory.
On the other hand, the urban heat island effect could do with being looked into, so let’s get right and do that!
According to the definition provided by the forever classy folks at the National Geographic:
An urban heat island, or UHI, is a metropolitan area that’s a lot warmer than the rural areas surrounding it. Heat is created by energy from all the people, cars, buses, and trains in big cities like New York, Paris, and London. Urban heat islands are created in areas like these: places that have lots of activity and lots of people.
So that’s fairly straightforward, but the fun bit is the extensive studies that have been conducted into UHI mitigation strategies, such as this one right here. Through studying the surface and near-surface air temperature of the Big Apple, researchers from Hunter College and Columbia University found that:
“In general, substantial reductions in New York City surface and near-surface air temperature can be achieved by implementing heat island mitigation strategies.”
The study also states that vegetation is more effective than an increase in albedo, which is essentially a fancy book-learnin’ term for reflected light.
According to TURAS, the motivation behind their idea is to “provide oases for communities at the heart of the most in-need areas”.
If you are lucky to be in any of the cities in which the green living rooms may pitch up, then do yourself a favour and check it out.
If you aren’t, then remember to go and hang around some plants every once in a while!