Thursday, November 09, 2006

one billion trees

I'm a big fan of trees. In fact I like to make the argument that trees are much more intelligent than human beings; at least human beings in the United States of America born after the year 1950. Let me explain.

Trees grow from tiny seeds into enormous creatures that can live for hundreds of years. Trees rely on their ability to obtain water and other necessary nutrients from their immediate environment. Talk about local, trees never move. They put down roots and absorb what they need from the surrounding soil. They also make leaves that absorb solar energy and transform it into food for the tree. Their leaves breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen and water vapor, all in exchange from the surrounding air. And when the leaves have done their duty they are dropped to the ground where their nutrients are made available all over again. In other words trees meet all their needs, sometimes for a very, very long time, without ever moving from where they were born.

In contrast, Americans of the post WWII era have established a way of life that is incredibly dependant on constant movement. None of us could survive without constantly moving from one place to another to collect supplies and deposit waste. Our food is grown, on average, 1500 miles from where we eat it. The nutrients used to fertilize this food come from even farther away. We pump water from rivers and lakes through complex systems of pipe and wash away waste in a similar scheme. Surviving the elements is accomplished by using resources from all over the planet to build houses that require mechanical systems to maintain a comfortable temperature. And then there’s all the stuff we tell ourselves we need.

Constantly on the go, we have even developed a system by which we burn fossil fuels and therefore pollute our air in order to power vehicles to propel ourselves faster over impervious surfaces made of petroleum that need constant upkeep so we can get from one place to another in a great big hurry. Why? Because we can. Which sounds smarter to you, learning to live with what you have or always running around wanting more?

Philosophical queries aside this is why you (yes I mean you sitting right there at that your computer reading this) should plant trees. Trees clean our air. In addition to absorbing carbon dioxide, a Chicago study showed 120 acres of trees can absorb up to 5.5 pounds of carbon monoxide, 127 ponds of sulfur dioxide, 24 pounds of nitrogen dioxide, and 170 pounds of particulates per day. The absorbing action of tree roots brings nutrients from subsoils to the surface for use by other plants. One tree can remove as much heat from a sunny southern afternoon as 5 air conditioning units running full blast. Trees increase the humidity of dry climates and can serve as a way to slow down winter winds. Trees provide habitat for other species of insects, birds and mammals. They also provide food in the form of fruits and nuts to both animals and human’s alike. Trees provide building materials, paper products, fuel for heating and cooking and a wonderful place to hang a rope swing.

You may not agree with me that trees are actually smarter than we are but it seems obvious that they are a wonderful part of life on this planet. So I have a challenge for you.

Wangari Maathai, the woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 is calling on us humans to plant 1 billion trees in 2007. “When we plants trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope.” Please join the effort and help me and others plant trees. If you do, please send me a photo of the trees you plant. I will share your images. Thank you.

One Billion Tree Campaign

Trees For Life and Heifer International (trees make a wonderful Christmas gift)

Statistics referenced in this post:
Our City Forest
Trees For You
Other Study Summaries

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