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This Ecologist Wants to Plant a Pop-Up Forest in Times Square

Grist – March 16, 2015
By Liz Core

This Ecologist Wants to Plant a Pop-Up Forest in Times Square

Marielle Anzelone, a botanist and urban ecologist, wants to grow a forest in Times Square … overnight.

Anzelone launched a Kickstarter campaign today, asking backers to help raise $25,000 by April 17 to transform a chunk of the glitziest block on Earth into a forest. The installation, which she’s calling PopUP Forest: Times Square, would feature shipping containers filled with trees, flowers, and soil, with the sounds of birds and other wildlife piped in from nearby woods.

The goal, said Anzelone, is to put the spotlight on the thousands of acres of New York City that are not paved over, and need additional protection. “At the end of the day it’s about helping people see that nature exists in cities,” said Anzelone, “and its real nature, not necessarily weeds.”

If the campaign makes its fundraising goal, the money will go toward creating a design and a prototype in Brooklyn. After that, she’ll seek sponsorship money to find the final project — and of course the green light from the Times Square Alliance board. (But hey, they have experience handling outlandish projects like this — after all, they’ve dropped a giant ball from a skyscraper every year since 1904.)

If the project proposal is approved, the forest will pop up in June 2016, staying up for three weeks before being dissembled, its parts distributed around local parks and schoolyards. Anzelone hopes the final result will be “a crazy PR event for nature.”

“Nature gets so little attention, but biodiversity loss is at the same crisis level as climate change,” she said. “I want to get people’s attention — and what’s one way to get attention? Grabbing public space, and setting up a forest in the most incongruous place imaginable.”

Imagine: You’re heading to your office job in Manhattan when you glance up from your iPhone to see a full-grown forest where, yesterday, there was only a hundred-foot wristwatch ad. Instead of being barraged by horns, you’re serenaded by a springtime warbler.

I don’t know about you, but I’d do just about anything to trade billboards for spruce trees on my morning commute.

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