Up A Tree …

“… the idea of a green awakening seems to be taking root … The concept appeals to a new generation of better-educated Pakistanis, and it has sparked excitement on social media.”

                                                ~ The Washington Post (2018)

“The level of forest loss we saw in 2019 is unacceptable … 2020 was supposed to be the year we halted deforestation, but we seem to be going in the wrong direction.”

                                                ~ Frances Seymour quoted by Yessenia Funes

As a kid, Sunday mornings was when we got to spend time with our dad, mom was a late sleeper those mornings. Often, he would take us down to Forest park along the river, a large winding area full of Live Oak, Pecan and other trees. It was my first experience among big trees and coupled with Dad time, was a magical adventure.

Our part of Texas is mostly rolling prairie, interspersed with thickets of Post Oak and Mesquite, neither of which grows very tall and both are mostly bushy. Few trees in our neighborhood were suitable for climbing, particularly for a big, chubby kid. When I was older, I got to see the pine forests of East Texas and Colorado, then later the real forests of the eastern U.S.

To me, big trees were and are always magical. That’s where the strange creatures abide, fairies frolic among the leaves and wizards live inside the tree bole. Where I live now, in a small town with lots of trees, we’ve added a few more to our lot to keep the balance of open area and shade. The birds, squirrels (and the occasional raccoon) love it, also.

Around the globe, countries, corporations and individuals have supported planting more trees to combat forest loss and global warming. According to Katherine Martinko, Pakistan’s “10 Billion Tree Tsunami,” a major commitment to tree planting, “recently received an unexpected infusion of help from — of all things — the coronavirus. Many Pakistanis are suddenly unemployed, so the government has given them jobs as tree-planters. Unemployed day laborers have been turned into ‘jungle workers,’ able to earn money to support their families, and spend time outside in the fresh air — effective ‘social distancing.’ Every country should implement this action.

Trees are good. It’s hard to conceive of a better organism — they take our wastes (carbon dioxide, organic matter) and convert it to the oxygen that we need to survive, they provide shelter, fruit for sustenance and other purposes and wood for warmth and construction.

Peter Beechreports, “Beside sequestering carbon, boosting biodiversity and pollinators, promoting rainfall and providing firewood, fodder, jobs and shelter, forests are increasingly being recognised for the crucial infrastructure tasks they perform.”

“Forests protect priceless arable land from extreme weather events, prevent soil erosion, bind soil together to prevent flash floods, provide natural water filtration systems and even, in snowy areas far from east Africa, shield human settlements from avalanches. Increasingly, this ‘green infrastructure’ is expected to play a vital role in climate change adaptation.”

“Time in wild nature, according to the Wildlife Trust, is ‘fundamentally important for our health, wellbeing and happiness.’ Research shows that regular contact with the natural world improves rates of happiness and self-esteem. Children felt that nature taught them how to take risks and made them more creative, while spending time in greenery is shown to have a positive impact on conditions from ADHD to depression.”

So, if trees are so valuable to our very existence, why do we not do more to protect them (and us)?

As reported by Yessenia Funes, “… a soccer field of forest cover was wiped out every six seconds last year. What’s more, new hotspots are popping up within the Brazilian Amazon where indigenous communities are struggling to protect their homelands from emboldened illegal land-grabbers … Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Australia all saw record losses.”

It is human nature to think that today’s benefit outweighs possible futures. We strive to think ahead, to plan and act responsibly, but, frankly, it’s not our strength. Maybe we just can’t see the forest for the trees.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”  ― Chinese Proverb

Additional information:

Peter Beech, The African Country That Inspired More and More Countries to Plant Billions of Trees, June 8, 2020 from Global Center on Adaptation 11 Jun 2020

Henry Fountain, Going in the Wrong Direction: More Tropical Forest Loss in 2019, June 2, 2020, The New York Times

Yessenia Funes, The World’s Tree Cover is Headed in the “Wrong Direction,” 6/2/20, Gizmodo

Katherine Martinko, Pakistan Turns Unemployed Workers into Tree Planters, May 4, 2020, TreeHugger

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