Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A life without trees

I wish I had some great news to report from the environmental front, but there's not much. Sure, there have been some positive developments over the past few months, with some prominent Republicans finally "coming out" and acknowledging climate change and the role of humans in it. This could be a really big deal, as I wrote here. However, with Scott Pruitt's confirmation last week, and #45's initial budget proposal calling for a 25% or so cut to the E.P.A.'s annual budget, there's not been much to cheer. (I guess spending more on military than the seven countries below us is not enough.)

Here's even more bad news: We're losing our forests, here and abroad. An article I read in The Washington Post a few days ago reported that our rural forests are disappearing, with big chunks in what was once forest now being developed, destroyed by fire, or turned into farmland. The average distance from any point in America to a forest has increased by 14% (about 1/3 of a mile) since 1990.

To make matters worse, a New York Times feature article from this past weekend reported that deforestation is on the rise again in South America, Brazil and Bolivia in particular. Most of this forest clearing is being done for agriculture, such as for soybean production. This is really bad news, as the rainforest belt around the equator is literally the Earth's lifeline. Did you know that 25% of all the Earth's carbon stored in soil and plants is sequestered in Amazonia, and that approximately 30% of the world's biodiversity can be found there?

The earth is now home to approximately three trillion trees (3,000,000,000,000), but we have lost about 50% of the forests that were here since the time when human civilizations began, about 12,000 years ago. Finally, we cut down 15 billion trees every year.

Where does it end? A life without trees is no life at all. Trees grant us ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water purification, prevention of soil erosion, noise suppression, wind suppression, and air purification, to name only a few. Humans who live near trees are less stressed and recover more quickly from illness when near trees. And a world with fewer trees is a world with fewer insects, birds, ants, etc.

We can all take actions to make a small difference, however:


1.  Join Arbor Day Foundation today. For as little as $10, you will receive ten small trees each year to plant on your property (or someone else's property). My Mom gave this membership to me several years ago, and I have planted dozens of trees on our property outside of Asheville. You also receive discounts on other trees you will want to buy during the year.

2.  Contribute to the campaign of Greenpeace International to halt deforestation.

3.  For those in the Asheville area, buy plants/trees/shrubs from Useful Plants Nursery to create an edible landscape. Here's another local organization where you can get great trees: Nutty Buddy Nurseries.

4.  Walk in the woods today (and tomorrow, and tomorrow) and savor the trees in your midst. Left alone, these trees will be here long after you and I are gone.

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