This article originally ran in the Benzie County Record Patriot in the spring of 2009.
The earth is more and more in need of our help to bring back balance to our environment. Whether we are a mega-industrialist, or a hermit in the woods we all consume for our necessities and extravagances. Emerson said, “We are all consumers, but ought to be producers.” The greatest challenge of our time is to bridge the gap between consuming and producing.
One of the most significant ways we can contribute to our environment is the planting and caring of trees. Trees are one of the most dynamic contributors to setting back the balance from the wear and tear of civilization. Arbor Day reminds us at least once a year to reflect on some of those benefits from trees.
- The oxygen in the air we breath is from plants. Trees are giant contributors. Recently, my youngest child reasoned that with all the evergreens around us they must add ginormously to our fresh air in the winter. Imagine the abundant fresh air we have in the summer when the deciduous trees are in full leaf.
- Our environment is made of overlapping cycles of nature. One of these is the water cycle. In trees, the water is raised up in the leaves in the form of sap. What great water distribution without pumps or pressure. The trees raise and lower thousands of gallons each season to every leaf even against gravity and purifying what comes to the ground as rain and out the leaves through transpiration.
- Now we come to the most significant contribution trees give to this planet: the securing of carbon. The trees capture C02 and sunlight and then transform this to carbon and secures it in its leaves, stems, and roots. This carbon is released every autumn to enrich the soil. This carbon is stored as wood and can provide heat for our homes, shade to cool our homes, and material for building our homes. This same carbon formed long ago from algae and primal forests now power much of our civilization. It stands to reason that the adverse effects of ancient carbon release can be offset by the planting and caring for trees.
As spring unfolds and all the trees put forth new leaves, whorls of needles, and another layer of wood, think what all-around benefactors these good neighbors are. Let us raise a hand (or shovel) to see what we can do to protect, plant, and nurture these life-sustaining gifts from the trees.
Let us not walk the middle line of passive tree-huggers, but let us become active participants in the trees’ futures. It is the biggest gain for the soil, water, and air as well as humans, plants, and animals. It is one of the greatest legacies we can leave as our part of our journey on this planet.
Click here to learn more about Arbor Day.