People who will not sustain trees will soon live in a world that will not sustain people. - Bryce Nelson
Trees purify the air; they also purify the mind……if you want to save your world, you must save the trees. - The Trees of Endor
Trees do so much for us, yet we usually take them for granted.
Perhaps this is because trees are such an integral part of the fabric of life, for as long as we humans have walked the Earth. Paradoxically, it’s easy to overlook something so ubiquitous. And so we have cut down half of America’s original forests, and over 95% of old-growth (200+ year old) redwoods. Initially we didn’t imagine we could cut them all down. As human population increased, this habit became literally suicidal, but the trend is reversible if we again value trees. From awareness comes action.
Modern science has taken us full circle, confirming the ancient, intuitive understanding of trees’ role in the health of the world’s ecosystem. We can cease tree and forest destruction in our local communities, as well as in the Earth’s precious rainforests. Bumpersticker wisdom, “Think globally, act locally.”
TreeSpirit’s emphasis is intentionally more emotional than scientific, but because science has great influence and power, let’s touch upon the vast list of trees’ mysterious, mostly invisible gifts. (A more complete compendium could easily fill a separate, giant website.)
What Trees Do For You (a wildly abbreviated list):
• produce oxygen and filter pollutants from the air we breathe – These kinds of statistics inevitably vary widely, but 1 mature tree, on average, produces 260 pounds of O2 per year. Two trees can provide enough O2 for a family of four.” (Source: McAliney, Mike, Trust for Public Land, Sacramento, CA, December, 1993.)
More than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest (Source: Rainforest Alliance.org.)
One acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of carbon dioxide and emits 4 tons of oxygen, the annual need of 18 people.” (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture)
• reduce urban crime (!), create community, and calm people - Source: a 2001 University of Illinois study found greenery (trees, shrubs, gardens) had a calming effect, reducing the crime rate 52%. and attracting people to spend more time outdoors to build relationships. Much more, here: http://lhhl.illinois.edu/media/thepoweroftrees
• soil filtration (cleaning!) - Phytoremediation is the technical term for the absorption of toxic chemicals and pollutants from contaminated soil. Trees not only can store pollutants but can even convert some into less harmful substances, and filter sewage, farm chemicals, animal wastes, and roadside toxins like metals, pesticides, solvents, crude oil and its derivitives, and even explosives.
• reduce flooding and soil erosion via soil stabilization • Storm water that would otherwise run off impervious driveways, parking lots and roads, is absorbed by the forest floor, which then allows it to trickle down into groundwater or be taken up by vegetation.
• provide precious animal habitat • 70% of Earth’s land animals and plants live in forests.
• provide medicines in vast quantities, including medicines yet to be discovered in forests and jungles that are rapidly being cut down. Are we wise enough to preserve them?
• food—it grows on trees! • Almonds, avocados, bananas, cherries, grapefruits, lemons, oranges, peaches, pears pineapples, plums, mangos, pineapples, and on and on. And trees’ productivity matches this diversity: a single apple tree can yield up to 600 apples annually: local, organic, inexpensive, healthy sustenance.
• carbon sequestration • one example: America’s National Forests absorb 10-15% of the nation’s carbon emissions (Source: NationalGeographic.com)
• inspire and comfort • perhaps the most valuable, under-recognized feat of all: trees silently, unfailingly, nurture and elevate the human spirit; calming us, inspiring us, making us feel better just by the simple act of our being in their presence.
We humans have become so powerful, we can exterminate entire species of animals and plants, perhaps even most trees. The question remains whether we can use our inner wisdom—in concert with facts and information—to preserve our own life-sustaining environment. Which leads to this last quote from an unlikely source:
With great power comes great responsibility.
- Stan Lee’s “Spider-Man”