Wednesday, May 02, 2012

New Leaves on the Tree Again

It's Spring, (even if kind of an on-again, off-again one this year,) so what better way to restart the discussion here in the Things Green Dept. than by Going Back To The Roots.

Yes, we're talking about Trees, in this case stimulated by an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times, "Why Trees Matter."
"We have underestimated the importance of trees," author Jim Robbins writes. "They are not merely pleasant sources of shade but a potentially major answer to some of our most pressing environmental problems. We take them for granted, but they are a near miracle."
Among the many well-cited benefits he names are,
  •  "In a campaign called Forests Are Lovers of the Sea, fishermen have replanted forests along coasts and rivers to bring back fish and oyster stocks. And they have returned. 
  • "In Japan, researchers have long studied what they call 'forest bathing.' A walk in the woods, they say, reduces the level of stress chemicals in the body and increases natural killer cells in the immune system… 
  • "In Africa, millions of acres of parched land have been reclaimed through strategic tree growth."
"…an old proverb seems apt. When is the best time to plant a tree? The answer: 'Twenty years ago.' The second-best time? 'Today.' "
From "Why Trees Matter," by Jim Robbins, author of the upcoming book, “The Man Who Planted Trees.” NY Times, published April 11, 2012

Ah, the endless subject of trees, the lengthy lists of all their virtues and gifts to us. From just one page of the Arbor Day Foundation's site, for example, we can learn that trees:
  • help fight climate change, 
  • are the “low tech” solution to energy problems, 
  • reduce your carbon footprint,
  • tame stormwater, 
  • conserve soil and water, 
  • regulate the temperature of your neighborhood, 
  • provide food for wildlife. 
Why, they even "add value to your home," especially when planted to require less energy to heat or cool it.

That's all just on the coolly rational, cost/benefit analysis side, too. Trees, standing in for the entire plant world, offer a perfect symbiosis with oxygen-breathing, carbon-dioxide-exhaling humans. "Through the natural process of photosynthesis," reminds us, "trees absorb CO2 and other pollutant particulates, then store the carbon and emit pure oxygen."

Then, in the most direct terms, how much does the shade of a tree mean to you on a hot summer day, with the sun at full blast? How about the sound and the visual of a grand old tree in the wind, being moved and heard from a thousand different spots; and the incomparably soothing effect that can produce in your nervous system?  How is it that all that motion can massage us, tip to toe, from inside to out, somehow washing away a tide of tension and concerns?

Like the man said, we don't appreciate trees nearly enough.

Not that there aren't people who do, and are working on it: for example, the United Nations sponsored an International Year of Forests in 2011, "a global celebration to highlight people's action for sustainable forest management," and "highlight our relationship with forests and humankind’s role in ensuring their well-being and development."

"The four shared Global Objectives provide a framework for international efforts toward sustainable forest management."

This United Nations Forum on Forests awarded their first-ever Forest Heroes Awards, celebrating the "countless individuals around the world who are dedicating their lives to nurturing forests in quiet and heroic ways. By honouring everyday people, we would like to show that it is possible for everyone to make a positive change for forests!"

(Snapshot by BR, 2012)