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Want to Help the World? Plant a Tree

Want to Help the World? Plant a Tree

Trees are our friends, and they need more loving care. Trees give us oxygen to breathe, they take greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of our air, they filter our water, they give us shade and visual pleasure. Last year’s national drought was rough on them; Texas alone lost a half-billion trees as the state experienced too much heat, too little rain and too much fire. This year has also started badly for our barked helpers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that, nationwide, the first quarter of 2012 broke the previous January-March record for average temperature by an unprecedented amount. The lower 48’s average temperature was by 1.4 degrees warmer than any first quarter going back to 1895, the earliest comprehensive records we have. Trees, like the rest of nature, tend to be happiest when environmental conditions they’ve grown up in don’t change too quickly.

What can we do? For city people, we can water neighborhood trees during droughts and help with needed maintenance. Where appropriate, we can plant new trees. On the political level, we can push for requirements that builders, both private developers and government ones, plant at least two new trees for every one they destroy. The federal government already has national restrictions that require 2-to1 replacements for wetlands taken for development, a possible model for local governments.

For farmers and foresters, the word is sustainability. Trees protect the value and productivity of land by hold soiling in place and preventing runaway erosion, among many other free services. My grandfather, a lifelong farmer, used trees as living fences and for shade against the Texas sun. Trees protect us, so it’s good business to nurture old ones and plant new ones. The same goes for governments.

With more heat and less water in our futures, it makes sense to look for drought-resistant and heat-tolerant species for new plantings. There may be a tree expert who writes articles for your local paper, and there are county agricultural agents and others available for advice on what trees are likely to thrive on your turf.

Green is soothing, and so is the sound of wind rustling leaves and the smell of the forest. Trees are generous friends, they’re fun to be around, and they don’t talk back. So hug a tree next time you’re out.

Image by Nevit Dilmen (Own Photograph) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


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