To Resurrect Jordan’s Lost Forests, People Plant Tiny Urban Ones

Good News Notes:

At a park in the east Amman neighborhood of Marka, a local street cat stalks two small birds past shrubs and saplings. Deema Assaf, an architect turned environmentalist, stops talking for a moment to watch the interaction. Only a few feet from the oblivious birds, the cat freezes. Then it loses interest and walks away, curling up near Assaf in a rare patch of weeds—most of the unwanted vegetation was pulled the day before by volunteers.

The birds are much thicker in the morning, Assaf says. And cats are not the only things they are attracting. The park’s security guard has seen a fennec fox on the hunt; it likely came from green spaces around a small airport nearby, the only part of the surrounding neighborhood not dominated by cement and concrete buildings. But that’s changing. The small plot of knee-high vegetation where she stands now does not look like a forest, says Assaf, but give it a couple of years and most of it will be 5 to 6 feet in height.

The fenced-in area is a little over 2,500 square feet—about the size of the average American house—and looks like a patchwork of random plants packed closely together. But there is nothing haphazard about it. The plot is one of a handful of small sites in Jordan’s capital where Assaf and Japanese environmentalist Nochi Motoharu have introduced a planting technique called the Miyawaki method—the first time it’s been used in the Middle East—in hopes of preserving native plants, mitigating the impacts of rampant urbanization, and changing the very way people view the urban landscape.

That landscape has seen drastic changes in the last 100 years: Multiple influxes of refugees have caused Amman’s population to balloon from around 5,000 people to some 4 million. What was once a collection of forested Mediterranean valleys has largely been paved over….”

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