“A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.”
I’ve always had a thing for trees; I am a tree-hugger from way back, before I knew there was such a thing. I admit I’ve always carried a torch for tall guys and trees. The statuesque pines of my native Pacific Northwest really do it for me. I feel safe in the woods among the wild green of the forest. I have always been strangely drawn to them…perhaps it’s in my blood; a throwback to my very distant Native American ancestors, maybe it’s because I am fortunate enough to live a stonesthrow to a temperate rainforest or it could be that trees are just really that wonderfully special and useful structures that are a vital part of out global ecosystem.
I love to be in the forest right after a tender rainfall. The fresh scent of pine is so welcoming to me. The way the morning sun shines through the boughs of the trees and how the steam rises from the tree tops. I feel privileged to witness such an event.
Beyond their majestic beauty, trees provide we the inhabitants of this marvelous planet with so much, they give us their all and we as the human stewards of this land have not returned the favor. Ever since our beginnings as small rodent-like creatures living in a reptile dominated world we clung to the trees for our very lives. Ever experience the phenomena of falling asleep and feeling the sensation of falling only to “catch” yourself? That is a leftover from our distant mammalian past. Back to the days when our ancestors lived their entire lives in the tree canopy. Our close relatives the apes still swing from branch to branch; adept as ever, holding on with one hand whilst using the other to reach for tasty fruit.
Trees today provide sustenance and shelter to a wide variety of lifeforms and they in their wide variety have perfectly adapted to our planet’s many climates and microclimates. Trees are powerhouses of natural resources and we have depended on their immense wealth for as long as we have been here. Unfortunately, I think we take them for granted; believing them to always be in abundance. There has always been another to chop down…and another and another.
Deforestation has many negative effects on the environment. Seventy percent of the planet’s land animals and plants live in forests, and will perish without their homes. Trees play a crucial role in absorbing greenhouse gases. Fewer forests means larger amounts of these gases entering the atmosphere and this increases the speed and severity of global warming.
Deforestation must stop if we are to continue on this planet. I think some don’t realise how much we need trees and as a lover of trees, like my literary hero, The Lorax, I shall speak for the trees…
Forests are vital to our Ecosystem
Forests counter erosion by holding soil together with their roots, this helps keep the nutrient rich topsoil in place which gives plants something to grow and flourish in, this also helps reduce flooding. They protect agriculture by modifying local climate extremes and ensuring water supplies. They help prevent pollution by acting like natural sponges and air filters; absorbing storm water that normally would end up in our rivers and streams.
Trees sequester carbon and absorb other airborne pollutants. They even have the ability to clean contaminated soil and ground water. One mature tree releases enough oxygen to support two people.
The leaves of trees absorb light energy, reducing reflected heat. When trees absorb water through their root system, they release moisture through leaf surfaces by a process called transpiration. This cools the air and can reduce the surrounding temperature by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature directly under the tree by as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Tree canopies blocks the sun’s rays during the day and holds in heat at night. Without them to protect us this will lead to more extreme temperatures swings that can be harmful to plants, animals and humans.
Trees help return water vapor back into the atmosphere. Without trees many former forest lands can quickly become barren deserts.
Trees and People
Studies have shown the relationship between trees and nature and mental and physical health. Patients in hospitals heal more quickly if they have a view of trees and nature. People are much more likely to go outside and walk through tree-lined communities, helping to provide a sense of community and well-being which in itself enhances people’s health. Simply viewing nature, or urban greenery decreases stress levels and enables people to cope better with day-to-day hardships.
Trees are Economical
Trees, especially mature ones, increase real estate values. They muffle urban noise and during the cold season; act as windbreaks; saving on heating costs. During the hot summer months their shade helps cool a house thus saving on air conditioning costs.
Trees are good for business
Trees not only improves the ability of residential neighborhoods to build community, they also contribute positively to business districts. Studies have shown that shoppers prefer to spend more time in canopied business districts and perceive merchants in those districts more positively than merchants in districts with fewer trees. This ultimately results in wider community networks encompassing not just where we live, but also where we work, shop, and play.
I think I’ve presented a good case for trees. Obviously we need them and they need us . How can we help our friends the trees?
How to help trees
Deforestation is such an immense problem. It is easy to feel helpless. Where do we start?
What follows are some simple ways your average person like you and I can do:
- If you have the room on your property plant a tree or two…or more. If you must cut one down, replace it with another in a different spot.
- If you don’t have the room or the opportunity to plant a tree, consider joining the Plant A Billion Trees Campaign and help protect The Brazilian rainforest which is home to 23 species of primates and 1,180 species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish and 1,000 species of birds, almost 200 of which are not found anywhere else on Earth. Rainforests help regulate the atmosphere and stabilize global climate.
- Help support The Nature Conservatory. This is a good cause which needs all the help it can get. Click on the link to read more about this fine organization.
- Want to help closer to home? Support Local Land Trusts and Parks. There are many to choose from, just a quick Google search will uncover many.
- Cut down on junk mail. It’s fairly simple: Register for the Mail Preference Service on the Direct Marketing Association website. For $1, your name and address will be removed from prospective mailing lists. This should end about 75% of your junk mail within about 90 days. ( Who likes junk mail anyway?)
- Use Paperless Billing. It cuts down on paper and really simplifies your life, giving you more time to go out and enjoy nature.
- Another way to save paper is to simply reuse scraps. I use old envelopes for my shopping lists. Also when printing something consider using both sides and while you are at it, ask yourself “Do I really need to print this?” Sometimes you sincerely don’t need to.
- Libraries are the perfect place to go for free access to newspapers and magazines in print. E-readers like the Kindle and tablets like the iPad makes it easier than ever to read the digital editions of your favorite publications.
- Use reusable shopping bags. It can be a hassle to remember but once you get used to it, it gets easy. Keep a few in your car or by the front door. Lead by example and show other shoppers you care about the environment. Perhaps you’ll prompt them to do the same.
- While you are shopping, whether it be furniture, building materials or paper goods, look for FSC- and SFI-certified products. The FSC is the Forest Stewardship Council, which sets standards for third-party certification of private forests worldwide. The SFI is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which focuses on wood from North American Forests. Another excellent way to shop is by using Rainforest Alliance Certified Products, for a list visit their website.
WE CAN DO THIS!
I realise what I’ve said here is simplistic and the problem goes so much further than any one person or any one nation for that matter. I could cover my property in trees and never use a single piece of paper again. Everyone reading this could do the same, but the problem would still be there. I suppose that’s why I’m writing this; to help keep a dialogue going because we as a society need to have this discussion. We need to make saving our forests and saving our planet a priority. Our governments could do so much more. Socially, we can do more. We are a constantly evolving people and what was acceptable once doesn’t mean it has to be acceptable in the future.
Many believe that growing our economies is more important than growing trees. These two important causes do not need to be mutually exclusive. We the people are a force to be reckoned with.
Write a blog post; better yet, write your local government official, write the president, any president… tell them we need to stop the abuse of our planet, if not for our sake, for the sake of our children and our children’s children who will inherit the mess from us. Think the environment is going to hell now? This is nothing compared to the nightmare that future generations may inherit if we don’t act.
I don’t mean to sound negative because I am hopeful. We have made it this far in the evolutionary ladder. This is another stepping stone to our ultimate destiny, whatever that will be.
We in the first world can lead the way, together with the rest of the world we can fix this. The time of the United States’ domination is over. We have set the standard for the rest of the world and it’s not fair to blame other less fortunate countries from trying to get a piece of what we have. Instead of condemning and punishing them, we need to help them. We need to work together on this. This planet belongs to us all and so does the problem.
We can do it!
“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness.”
***References and suggested reading***
The Benefits of Trees (newswatch.nationalgeographic.
Deforestation Facts and Stats (worldpreservationfoundation.org)
The Friends of Trees (www.friendsoftrees.org) An excellent organization
“Look Now–The world in facts, stats, and graphics” ©2010 by Joe Fullman, Ian Graham, Sally Regan and Isabel Thomas
“The Firefly Enclopedia of Trees” ©2005 Edited by Steve Cafferty
“The Urban Tree Book” ©2000 by Arthur Plotnik
“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss (one of my all-time personal favorites)
I speak for the trees (strawberryindigo.wordpress.com) One of my first posts
Tree and human health may be linked (sott.net)
Real Estate Tip:Trees Improve Energy Efficiency (themarycoxteam.wordpress.com)
Clones of the world’s oldest and largest trees,… (rivalanimus.com)