Publications (Paul's Blog)

February 11, 2011

PLANT A TREE

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 5:30 pm

As I sit down to write on October 15 it has been raining for over 18 hours. Good rain, steady rain, gentle rain. I checked the gauge a couple hours ago and it read 4”. Still the rain continues. Yesterday we were 10” below normal. Today we may cut that deficit in half. If this continues through the night we may get close to caught up. I keep thinking about the tree I planted yesterday evening before the rain started.
In this world of concern over water resources, non-renewable energy, air pollution, habitat loss, global warming, starving populations, and general poor decision making by the powers that be, I’ve come to the conclusion that planting a tree is just about as good a thing as a person can do to help make his or her part of the world a better place. As individuals you and I may not have a huge impact on the things that trouble our existence on planet Earth, BUT the simple act of planting a tree will have a positive effect on all these issues. Anyone can plant a tree. It isn’t expensive or hard to do. Consider the facts:
WATER- Trees help prevent erosion with strong roots and dense canopies that break up rain drops. Trees hold moisture inside their vascular systems and release it slowly through transpiration thus cooling the air to moderate temperature. I have heard the analogy that our tropical rain forests could be considered the “lungs” of our planet. The daily “breathing” releases moisture that drifts out to sea with the prevailing wind. This puff of moisture often develops into tropical storms that will affect land masses thousands of miles away. It is likely that the destruction of our rain forest has and will continue to contribute to drought and famine worldwide. Plant a tree……….
ENERGY- Trees convert energy from the sun to create all sorts of useful items including firewood. It has been said that the act of controlling fire was perhaps the most significant turning point in human survival. Wood is a renewable resource (if properly managed) and much of today’s world population still depends upon wood for heat, cooking, and industry. Consider also that crude oil, coal, and natural gas are the remains of ancient trees, other plants, and animals. These concentrated forms of biomass are our main sources of energy today. Without the ancient forests, this never would have been. Trees can provide a sustainable solution to our dwindling fossil fuel resources. Highly combustible ( and by the way, much cleaner) fuel can be converted from cellulose found in most any plant. Trees being our largest plant will obviously produce the most cellulose. In fact, our lowly mesquite is being considered for a good candidate to produce “gasohol.”
POLLUTION-Trees are very good at reducing pollution of air and water. As the roots are busy feeding on nitrates and combining soil elements plus minerals into useful products, the leaves are taking in carbon dioxide while exhaling oxygen. Perfect for oxygen breathers and water drinkers like us. As the leaves and dead wood fall to the ground, they create soil humus which is vital to all living things including the trees themselves. This process takes carbon from the air and deposits it in the soil where we need it most. If you live in a big city where air quality is poor (or even if you don’t), plant a tree………….
HABITAT-Trees create habitat for millions of creatures. It is very likely that some of our ancestors actually lived in trees and it is for certain that even modern humans have survived attacks from predators by climbing a tree. In our rain forests we have found entire ecosystems of plants, insects, and animals who dwell entirely in the tree canopy. Their feet (or roots as the case may be) never touch the ground. Even after a dead tree falls it creates habitat for a whole multitude of creatures that dwell on or in the ground. If you enjoy birds or wildlife in general you should take the same money you might spend on a birdhouse or a feeder and plant a tree instead……………
GLOBAL WARMING-How do we even begin to put a value on shade? Besides reducing the pollutants that are contributing to global warming, trees absorb the heat and cool the ground beneath. If we could manage to get back our great forests and tree cover that existed a mere two hundred years ago, we could significantly reduce the effect of global warming or perhaps even reverse it. Plant a tree………….
STARVATION- I once read a book entitled “A Grove of Trees to Live In.” In this book the author hypothesized that if the human race had chosen to farm trees instead of the various grains that have supported our population and made civilization possible, things could have possibly turned out better for us. Besides the attributes already listed above, trees give us food. This could go way beyond peaches, apples, and pecans. In fact, our native Americans that once were the only humans who lived in Texas relied heavily on acorns. Acorns were ground and used much like we use corn, wheat, and oats today. Even mesquite beans were utilized by Indians. The only way a person could starve to death was through sheer ignorance. Edible plants are everywhere. Nature provides. Plant a tree……………
POLITICS- As we listen to the media discuss the campaign strategies of our various politicians you will often hear the term “stumping.” This refers to the early days when people seeking votes would travel from place to place speaking to anyone who would gather. These speeches were often as not held in the comfortable shade of a large tree and the speaker might find a convenient stump nearby to stand above the crowd. Today we find that most of us will never get to stand face to face with a governor or presidential candidate. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could? Politicians would really have to know their business if any one of us in the crowd could ask any question we wanted. Instead we watch debates on TV where the candidates answer prepared questions with prepared responses often written by hired speech writers. Find a big tree somewhere, then invite a politician to stand under it……….Worse things could happen!!!
I have what I consider one of the best jobs in the world. I sell and plant trees for a living. While the pay is not so great at times, the benefits are excellent. I enjoy the gratitude of unskilled gardeners when they are finally successful in planting their first tree. I feed on the knowledge I gain from other professionals and those who came before me, paving the way. I especially am grateful for the fact that in my career I have planted thousands of trees. Many of these will undoubtedly live well beyond my life span. Perhaps some person will remember and speak well of me a hundred years from now. Certainly future generations will benefit from my efforts. If I die tomorrow I can be happy in the knowledge that my life was not wasted. I planted many trees……….
Yesterday I planted a tree in the best way, at the best time possible. I planted a freshly fallen acorn at the optimum time of year, just ahead of a good soaking rain, in my own yard at the spot of my choosing. Today as I listen to the rain beating on our metal roof I imagine that acorn swelling with life. I look forward to the coming spring when my seedling will emerge. This cost me nothing more than the effort it took to pick up the acorn and dig out a 2” deep hole to place it in. Who knows what events may unfold or potential good that may come as a direct result of this one simple act. I have done a very good thing. I planted a tree!!

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