Written by Cheeravath Aphipunyo
Imagine your local convenience storefront. Now, imagine what it would look like if it had a modest array of plants sitting in front of it. Perhaps there are some flowers. Perhaps there are some cacti native to Southern California. Wouldn’t the store — and our city — look much nicer?
I’m not saying that the city should invest in arranging plants around town to beautify the community but, rather, what if business owners decided to take initiative and do it themselves? On a drive through the Anaheim corridor, it dawned on me that something as simple as this can positively transform the community in many ways.
For one, local storeowners would have nicer storefronts that attract customers more effectively. This creates a vibrant, local economy in which neighborhood strip malls, mom and pop shops, and family-owned restaurants succeed in competing against large corporations. Not only will our local stores look good, our neighborhoods will look good. It’s just a thought.
I mean, has anyone ever been out of town and asked the question, “Where are you from?” Did anyone answer, “Inner-city Long Beach. It’s such a nice place,”? Probably not. The perception of our community and city needs to change, and it starts by us — the people living here, the people shopping at these stores, the people who own these stores — taking ownership of our community. This small, simple idea is big in its potential to elevate the quality of our lives. If taken into action, not only will outsiders’ perceptions of our neighborhood change but, perhaps more importantly, our own would as well.
What would a community we are proud of look like? And how do we get there?
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, incidences of crime and acts of violence were shown to be lower in urban areas where trees were present. In an article by TreeHugger.com, Geoffrey Donovan, researcher for the study, says, “We believe that large street trees can reduce crime by signaling to a potential criminal that a neighborhood is better cared for and, therefore, a criminal is more likely to be caught.”
Who would have thought that large, towering trees can prevent crime? On your next drive down Anaheim Street, take notice of the deprivation of trees. Is our community so poor that even things supplied by Mother Nature, things so natural, are not within our reach?
Additionally, Long Beach has one of the highest air pollution rates in America. This isn’t a surprise because we have the second busiest seaport where ships come in and out, large trucks and trains make trips back and forth. These truck routes and railroads are right behind our public schools like Cabrillo, Hudson, and Stephens, whose students fall victim to polluted air. What results is children in Long Beach having an asthma rate of 15% compared to 8% of their peers in greater Los Angeles.
We can build a healthier community, make big impacts with small actions. We all deserve the richness that is given to us by nature so let’s plant some trees and plants, flowers and grass. They are known to naturally improve air quality, conserve water, and moderate climate. They sure aren’t bad to look at either. And, in the process, we’ll generate some color, some character, some life — some pride — in our dull and urban city.