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If Survival is the Question, Trees are the Answer

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Every tree must be considered a vital member of our survival fighting force, because this is a crisis and drastic action is needed.

By Helen McFadden Posted Jul 4, 2013

Trees Trees. They breathe and store carbon dioxide, then give off oxygen, which we breathe.
A vital fact, but that is not all, because as well as supplying our oxygen, and keeping our carbon levels in check, trees also regulate our planet’s water cycle, global temperatures and winds, and the cycles of positive and negative ions that govern our atmosphere, all these attributes crucial to the regulation of Earth’s temperatures, precipitation and winds.

We as a species have reached a crucial turning point in our planet’s crisis of global warming. We have now reached a point where warming could very well be irreversible, each new rise in temperature unleashing new factors in the warming pattern, until the entire planet is uninhabitable. And this could happen with increasing speed as the cycle winds up. Already the extreme weather conditions we have experienced worldwide are increasing: worst storms, hottest temperatures, flooding where it has never happened before. Worldwide, already, people are suffering and dying, and only a global concentrated effort to do something entirely new can bring us the possibility of overcoming the crisis before it overtakes us entirely.

Our planet was once covered with lush vegetation; even the Sahara was once a forest.
Yet today, increasingly huge areas have no trees at all, not only through desertification, but also through urban development, harvesting swathes of timber, and increasingly the fires that accompany the extreme events of global warming. Without these trees, all the functions of carbon storage, temperature regulation, water moderation and atmospheric cleansing are undermined, bringing us to the situation we now find ourselves in.

When a community or country is threatened by overwhelming threats such as war or plague, drastic measures are required of all its citizens to confront and cope with the threat, if survival is to be a possibility. Can we recognize that our planet is in such a situation and muster the will and the power to confront the threat? Certainly we have begun is small ways in various places, with wind and solar power replacing fossil fuels, reuse of resources, control of population growth. But what if we also undertook to restore as much as possible of the mantle of protection provided by trees everywhere, so as to rebuild our defenses on a global scale? What if we managed to muster a global push to reforest the planet?

Without these trees, all the functions of carbon storage, temperature regulation, water moderation and atmospheric cleansing are undermined, bringing us to the situation we now find ourselves in.

Without these trees, all the functions of carbon storage, temperature regulation, water moderation and atmospheric cleansing are undermined, bringing us to the situation we now find ourselves in. We need to guard and treasure our trees as our greatest hope of survival. We need a sense of awe and respect towards what they can do for us, instead of considering them merely a commodity or even a nuisance! Every tree must be considered a vital member of our survival fighting force, because this is a crisis and drastic action is needed.

The first step would be a total, worldwide moratorium on cutting down trees – quite possibly for a full generation at least. This would apply to city neighbourhoods, new areas of development, even existing timber farms. Just as threatened fish stocks have meant the end to the fishing industry in some areas, and the redeployment of those who depended on the industry for their livelihood, so this situation will spell the end to the logging industry Those workers and leaders will need to develop new directions for their work – possibilities which should be plentiful, given the creative challenge posed by such a dramatic change in our lives.

Industries dependent on wood would need to find new ways to replace their original raw material of new timber with existing recyclable materials, bamboo, hemp, or other fast growing and less vital plants. Builders would no longer clearcut lots and put up structures, but would find existing cleared land, old buildings etc. to develop. In built-up areas, rooftop gardens would be utilized where possible, as would all other greening initiatives such as berm housing and the “green walls” we see in place here and there.

At the same time, reforestation would proceed at the fastest possible pace, in every possible area of the globe, by diverting spending to make it the new priority everywhere. It would become a survival priority, and be funded accordingly.

Education would be essential. Every child would be able to recite the benefits of trees like a mantra, would learn to respect and appreciate them as our earth’s guardians. As well, posters, TV and radio, social media all would carry the message to every adult , so that sense of common purpose would come to replace the “me first” attitude engendered by much of our advertising and society today. Because ultimately, “me first” depends upon my surviving, and that is no longer possible for any individual, community or even nation if we don’t act together to address this situation.

These are drastic measures. If we fail, we are indeed doomed, eventually or even soon.
Our children will face worse ravages of storms, floods, fires than we currently do; their children will likely have a harsh cruel life struggling to survive, and their children may have no world left to grow up in at all.

But if we succeed? Then we will have restored this jewel of a planet to beauty and abundance.

But if we succeed? Then we will have restored this jewel of a planet to beauty and abundance. Our temperatures and rainfall will once again be within reasonable limits. We will enjoy the calm of shade on a sunny day, gentle and sweet-smelling breezes, rainfall that nourishes rather than destroys. We will have enabled a future for generations to come, who will pay homage every day of their lives to that generation that saw the need for action and took it on. The time is now; the answer is trees. Can we do it?

Helen McFadden is a senior, and has a six-year-old grandson who is loving, curious, smart and thoughtful. “I want him to grow up with the same love of the natural world and its intricate web of life connections that I did, not in despair and fear for his survival as seems more and more the case these days.”

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  • Yes definitely i agree with the article that for surviving the trees are important..

    • Absolutely. If more people were thinking about the trees, we might not be getting so hot right now!

  • I agree with Michelle_cathy…Without trees we cannot survive in future.

  • Jon Hodges

    I love trees, they speak to my soul. Have you ever noticed how trees are like lungs turned inside out? Amazing really 🙂

  • Trees are the only way we could survive ! Thanks for sharing this post !

  • Yes I am a treehugger… And I feel it’s sad that the world has lost all regard for nature. It seems that “progress” comes at a great price, and the nature around us is the one which pays that price.
    Thanks for being an advocate on behalf of “the trees”. It’s important that everyone realizes that saving a tree today means that we’re leaving the planet in a better condition for our children and grandchildren.

    • Great comment Marc.
      I could never quite fathom how the word “treehugger” has been used derisively in recent years to describe people who care for the environment. Commenters like you help counter the callous attitude so many have towards the environment. Thank you!

  • Laura Ann Marie Bazal

    I agree with you that trees are important, however, phytoplankton play an even greater roll in preserving our atmosphere they produce about half of total oxygen world wide, are responsible for turning soluble and atmospheric carbon into solids and are the base for almost every marine food chain. Scientists are currently discussing adding iron to the oceans to help incite phytoplankton blooms and help reverse global warming.

    • Kim DeFrance Grosdidier Hansen

      so if phytoplankton is also a huge producers of oxygen, then working together with more trees only helps the massive populace of the earth and mother earth herself. I believe we need more trees, grass, etc. instead of so much concrete and asphalt. Thank you for the information on the phytoplankton. i will be following that information. I must say though, if we have to rely on government to help with the iron being introduced into the oceans, then we better start planting more trees. At least each individual can feel like they have helped by planting a tree.

    • godismyshadow

      Yes, but oxygen from phytoplankton gets dissolved in the waters of the ocean. Go get it if you have gills.

  • Liton Biswas

    Great article. It’s high time to think about the future of nature.

  • Yes, finally some support for the trees! Now if we can just get the rest of the population onboard!

  • Kevin McGinnis

    Two key words from the article stuck out to me- “restore” and “rebuild”. Damage has already been done and it takes more than a switch to a sustainable substitute to undo the detriment. This impending doom that so many talk about could, with some conscious work, be put to rest if all walks of life make it a goal to implement an eco-friendly lifestyle without beating around the bush.

  • Trees are the lungs of the world!

  • Amadi Bethel

    Tree planting is the solution, we need to embrace it again, especially in africa, most of the trees had been fell.

  • Thanks Matt. SImply and well said!

  • enoela

    Bought old home with ruined lot, which we are restoring–starting with soil health and trees!! Sacramento, CA: any suggestions? I like Blue Gum family but no one seems to recommend them; also like Oak, but so slow. First time to your site. thx

    • Well, your first consideration should be deciduous or coniferous. Deciduous can give you shade in summer and then sunlight in winter. But you will have leaves to rake and collect. Coniferous are lower maintenance and more consistent in blocking light in a residential lot. And if you are planting a new tree, be sure to check with your utility company for location of underground utilities. Any tree you plant to plant should be envisioned at full size, well away from the building foundation and sidewalks or other permanent fixtures.
      As to the best species to plant, we recommend taking a ride through your neighborhood and see what works best for other people. Local knowledge is the best advice. And in Sacramento you will have plenty of options for planting since the weather is so mild in winter.

  • Sushil

    Great to go thru this post and I too have great love for the Trees.

    Thanks for this post.

  • Davide

    Well, the simplest reason — trees make me feel good.

  • sonia

    i am a nature lover too and i do think that man is destroying nature due to his progress and materialisation but some places are still intact like valley of flowers in india,uttrakhand.

  • todd terhaar

    I need to know a name of a tree that bears a Burgundy shell that bears about 25 seeds and the shell has a cork like shell about 10inches long, help me…

    • Dan Erwin

      Todd: what part of the world and what hardiness zone are you looking for? In the Midwestern US, what you described sounds like a Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) complete with thorns, A Catalpa (Catalpa sp), or a Kentucky Coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus). These trees all produce elongated pods like an oversized bronze bean. Not sure what you mean by a shell

  • Tracie Lavering Black

    Just wondering which tress (coniferous or deciduous) produce the most oxygen? I know when a lumber company cuts down tress they replant with pines since they grow faster. Personally I love maples and nut trees like pecan and English walnut. The fall colors I see along the Blue Ridge Parkway are full of maples and they are truly beautiful.

    • Good question. We have a researcher working right now on an article about which trees to plant for benefit to the environment. The focus is on which trees are best at carbon sequestration. The article should be posted within the next three days.

  • Ben Rock

    Great article. Trees are the past and the future of life.

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