There's just so much to be said about trees. Not only are they beautiful and functional, they are a critical element to fighting climate change in urban areas.

Carlo Ratti, director of MIT's Senseable City Lab, has spearheaded a project called Treepedia, to identify where the trees are and how builders can incorporate them into their developments.

In an effort to enhance the critical role trees play in urban environments — providing cooling shade, alleviating air and noise pollution, and easing the effects of climate change — the school's Senseable City Lab has developed an online platform that maps out the canopy in some major cities to make it easier for urban planners and ordinary citizens to see where more are needed.

The project, called Treepedia, uses Google Street View to create what the MIT team calls the Green View Index.

Trees block shortwave radiation and increase water evaporation, creating more comfortable microclimates and mitigating air pollution, lab director Carlo Ratti said. But they also just make people feel better, Ratti said, channeling Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson's biophilia theory that humans innately seek out connections with nature.

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