“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. Wilderness is a necessity.”
- John Muir
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 are an integral part of life on Earth, for as long as we humans have walked upon it, providing food, clothing, shelter, medicines, air purification, oxygen production, soil stabilization, soil filtration, the list goes on and on (see more below*).
Today, with anthropogenic climate change threatening humanity’s stability, if not our very survival, trees are more important to us than ever before.
Yet, paradoxically, it’s easy to overlook trees because of their seeming ubiquity. How extensive can deforestation be if I don’t see it in my own neighborhood or county? Big issues like global warming can seem abstract if we don’t have direct evidence of them in our lives. (The same with climate change.) This disconnect is heightened because so many of us are so busy in our lives, and spend so much time indoors.
The fact is we powerful humans have cut down 50% of the Earth’s original forest cover in our brief time here. If we want to survive as a species, let alone thrive, we must end deforestation immediately, and begin re-forestation — planting many more trees and forests everywhere.
The United States has also cut down over 50% of its original forests in the last 400 years. We’ve destroyed even more of certain tree species and along with these forests, the animal species that live in them. For example, over 95% of old-growth coast redwoods — redwoods over 200 years old have been killed — or “cut down” as most people would say, choosing a less personal phrase than “kill,” thus illustrating how much less we value a tree’s life than an animal’s. Ironically, the “sempevirens” in species sequoia sempervirens is Latin for “evergreen” or “everlasting.”
VIDEO: How Forests Heal People by the forest-loving folks at HealingForest.org
Japanese “forest bathing” improves human health, research shows.
Being in a forest lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, reduces stress hormone production, boosts your immune system, and improves feelings of well-being. This of course is no surprise to those of us who instantly feel better in the woods, or even just near one tree. Read why the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku, or “taking in the forest atmosphere,” developed in the 1980s, is a a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japan:
Washington Post article, May 17, 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/05/17/forest-bathing-is-latest-fitness-trend-to-hit-u-s-where-yoga-was-30-years-ago
Pulitzer prize-winning biologist E.O. Wilson adds his voice to the overwhelming majority of scientists who know humanity’s greatest challenge is human-caused climate change, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. He advocates setting aside half the planet as nature reserve — before it’s too late. READ MORE: New York Times, March 1, 2016
Wilson asked years ago: “Why aren’t you young people out protesting the mess that’s being made of the planet?:
READ MORE: Grist Magazine, April 30, 2012
Only recently in human history have we been able to eradicate not only an entire species, but destroy ecosystems — like all Earth’s forests. And alter the Earth’s climate. As our clever, expanding, industrious and increasingly industrialized population nears 7 billion, our tree-felling habits and environmental devastation have become lethal — and increasingly suicidal. We are making Earth less hospitable for even our own species.
How so? Read Feb. 22, 2016 New York Times story about how our massive fossil fuel consumption (i.e., carbon emissions), combined with massive deforestation, has created the greatest sea level rise in 2,800 years: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/science/sea-level-rise-global-warming-climate-change.html?_r=0
But we CAN turn around this ship of foolishness, as evidenced by the historic 2015 climate conference in Paris at which 195 nations agreed to take action. (When was the last time 195 nations agreed on anything?) Reducing global deforestation and increasing re-forestation are two such actions.
Trees and forests sustain and enrich our lives in innumerable ways. If we again value trees and the interconnected web of life of our one and only ecosystem, we will see the ecological, practical, even economic sense of taking remedial action. Put another way: What we love we will protect.
READ HOW MUCH RAINFORESTS DO FOR YOU: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/urgentissues/rainforests/rainforests-facts
Modern science has taken us full circle, confirming ancient human cultures’ intuitive understanding of trees’ role in the health of the world’s ecosystem. We can end suicidal tree and forest destruction for short-term profits, both in our local communities, and in the Earth’s priceless rainforests. Bumpersticker wisdom applies, “Think globally, act locally.” And, “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
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’ numerous, silent, ceaseless gifts to us. (A more complete compendium could easily fill a separate, giant website.)
AN ODE TO TREES. Words by Herman Hesse. By @RainforestTV:
WHAT TREES DO FOR YOU (a wildly abbreviated list):
• PRODUCE OXYGEN and FILTER AIR POLLUTANTS – These kinds of statistics inevitably vary widely, but 1 mature tree, on average, produces 260 pounds of oxygen per year. Two trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four.
(Source: McAliney, Mike, Trust for Public Land, Sacramento, CA, December, 1993.)
• CARBON SEQUESTRATION - one example: America’s National Forests absorb 10-15% of the nation’s carbon emissions (Source: NationalGeographic.com).
1 acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of CO2 and emits 4 tons of O2, the annual need of 18 people. (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture)
• REDUCE CRIME (!), create community, calm people - Source: a 1999 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study found the greenery of trees, shrubs, and gardens have a calming effect on people, especially in urban areas, reducing the crime rate 52% and attracting people to spend more time outdoors to strengthen communities. Read more, here: http://lhhl.illinois.edu/media/thepoweroftrees.htm
• 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; land stabilization – Storm water that would otherwise run off impervious surfaces like driveways, parking lots and roads, is absorbed by forest floors, which then allows it to trickle down into groundwater or be absorbed by other vegetation.
• provide precious ANIMAL HABITAT – 70% of Earth’s land-based animals and plants live in forests. As we have destroyed forests worldwide we lose animals — including many animal species forever.
• provide MEDICINES in vast quantities: 25% of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from rainforest ingredients, but less that 1% of tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists. Untold numbers and types of medicines have yet to be discovered in forests and jungles that are rapidly being cut down. Are we wise enough to act immediately to preserve them?
• FOOD — it grows on trees! – FRUITS, NUTS & BERRIES like almonds, avocados, bananas, cherries, grapefruits, lemons, oranges, peaches, pears pineapples, plums, mangos, pineapples, and on and on. And tree productivity matches this diversity: a single apple tree can yield up to 600 apples annually: local, organic, inexpensive, healthy sustenance for birds, humans, furrier animals, insects, you name it.
• PROMOTE HEALING – several studies have demonstrated what many of us know intuitively, by common sense, and/or from our own experience: just SEEING trees, even through windows, even without touching or smelling them promotes well-being, reduces stress, and therefore speeds healing. A famous 1984 study by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich showed hospital bed-bound patients healed faster when given a view of trees, rather than of a brick wall.
READ Roger Ulrich’s study originally published in the journal Science: https://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/resources/2012/10/ulrich.pdf
READ, “How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal” in Scientific American, March 2012: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nature-that-nurtures
• INSPIRE, COMFORT, NURTURE – 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.
• READ how being in nature promotes well-being (and being nature-deprived promotes depression): http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/environment/nature-and-us/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing
• READ “The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature,” a 2008 study by The University of Michigan, in Psychological Science, the journal of the Association for Psychological Science: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/19/12/1207
• READ AMAZING 1999 STUDY, “The Power of Trees,” from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (CLICK HERE) which showed, among other things:
• children played in outdoor spaces around their homes that had trees twice as often as in treeless spaces;
• children playing among trees had more frequent contact with adults, in part because adults spent more time in green spaces than treeless areas;
• children in green spaces engaged in more “creative play” activities — e.g., pretending, playing with dolls, devising new jump-rope routines and hand-clapping songs — compared with kids in concrete-only play areas.
2016 National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) peer-reviewed study shows living near green plants/trees lengthens lives and improves mental & physical health.
• AUTHOR RICHARD LOUV coined the term, “nature deficit disorder” in his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods,” to describe what many children, especially in “developed” countries, suffer from when play and exploration in forests and other nature settings is drastically reduced to little or nil. The remedy is simple: let kids off-leash and back into nature. LEARN MORE.
In doing so, we foster healthier children and communities, and nurture lifelong bonds between our young people and the natural world. These bonds are what will protect and preserve our woods, forests, animal habitat, and wild places we as a society need to be healthy.
• Read the science behind tree hugging; why it feels good, why it’s good for you. For those who want a little Western analysis and science to back up their intuition and/or personal experiences: CLICK HERE FOR STORY about AUTHOR MATTHEW SILVERSTONE’s 2011 book, “Blinded by Science.”
Amazon review excerpt:
Silverstone tells us how trees, plants, water, the sun and the moon can all play a part in how we feel on a daily basis. Western science has chosen to ignore thousands of scientific studies that show there is more to our body’s behaviour than it alone can explain.
MOVIE TRAILER: Pope Francis says, “It’s time to take out the [planetary] trash!” in “The Encyclical,” by MariusCrowne.com
The Pope (Francis) offers hope, showing that religion and science can co-exist. Humanity can draw upon common sense, intelligence and compassion in equal measure to solve today’s ecological crisis of our own making. 1 of 100 articles on Pope Francis’ historic encyclical on our environmental and social mistakes — and how to get undo them, HERE: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/25/pope-francis-asserts-right-environment-un
“The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How they Communicate — Discoveries From a Secret World,” by Peter Wohlleben.
Peter Wohlleben website: http://www.peter-wohlleben.de/engl-home.html
“…trees might be among our lushest metaphors and sensemaking frameworks for knowledge precisely because the richness of what they say is more than metaphorical — they speak a sophisticated silent language, communicating complex information via smell, taste, and electrical impulses. This fascinating secret world of signals is what German forester Peter Wohlleben explores in The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate
• “Intelligent Trees” documentary film, TRAILER:
• Peter Wohlleben interview, Norwegian TV show, (host Fredrik) “Skavlan”:
• Suzanne Simard 2014 Ted-Ed talk on the unimaginably huge, complex, underground network of mycchorizal networks connecting trees to each other in a symbiotic relationship with fungi:
TREE HUGGING – its joys and wonders and techniques: http://www.ewao.com/a/1-tree-hugging-now-scientifically-validated
We humans have become so powerful, and are so clever, we can exterminate entire species of animals and plants, perhaps even most of the world’s trees. The question remains whether we can use our inner wisdom, and our hearts, in concert with all our information, to preserve our life-sustaining environment.
“Land use change is coming up as a significant driver of disease events, particularly from wildlife,” he says. “This is a wake-up call. Deforestation and land conversion for agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of pandemics.” – Peter Daszak, President, EcoHealth Alliance
The ecological importance of dead & dying trees. The timber industry and U.S. Forest Service promotes cutting down dead & dying trees and selling them for lumber, destroying vital habitat for woodpeckers, owls and other wildlife. Once again, the profit motive ignores, denies and overrides the health of forests and ecosystems.
More or fewer U.S. trees 100 years ago? In the world? These common questions contains the implication that we’re doing a better job of forest stewardship in the last century.
Because America’s forests were heavily logged for European settlement starting in the 1600s, we’ve done less deforesting since 1916. So YES, if you count trees only by number — not age, size, mass, or carbon storage — there are more trees now than yester-century. But…and here’s the big but(t)…
Over the past 400 years, we’ve cut down over 40% of our country’s original forest cover. And if you believe (as I do) we Americans are part of a global village with a shared atmosphere — and fate — the news isn’t good: we humans have cut down almost 1/2 Earth’s original forest cover, including about 20% of the Amazon rainforest.
Because forests are super-efficient global warming mitigators — by sequestering carbon and producing oxygen — we need many more trees everywhere, NOW. Hence TreeSpirit’s educational and activist mission to increase tree and forest appreciation.