There’s something about trees that makes me feel good without thinking. I might believe I’m as low as the soles of my shoes, worrying about car payments, anxious over diplomatic relations with North Korea, fuming about my flopped soufflé, but let me walk by a spruce, aspen, maple or oak, and that mood starts to dissipate. The day seems sunnier, the air, fresher.
Doesn’t matter the season. Every season brings its own joys and discoveries. Last winter a frost would hit, and leafless trees would be iced with the most delicate coating of crystals. In spring tiny green buds push through the protective scales as if sampling the climate to decide if the temperature warrants further growth. Trees seem to pulse with life itself.
Arbor Day is coming up, the last Friday in April in most states. I remember planting a sapling with great ceremony with my class in elementary school, as well as sporadic similar activities over the years hosted by community groups. Why did we bother? When with typical human irrationality, for centuries we’ve cut down and decimated trees by the millions. England, Scotland, and Ireland used to be covered with forests, but mankind happily thwacked its way down to the earth to use the resources for more urgent needs.
Now Arbor Day, as well as additional activities like the Tree City USA program, are trying to make amends by encouraging natural tree and plant life in this country. However, this is not a global trend. A report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean is the conversion of forests to other land uses, such as agriculture. In Brazil alone, 78 million acres of rainforest are lost every year! More than 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest is already gone. Perhaps they need a huge horde of elementary school students swarming into the region to plant seedlings.
Unfortunately, do-gooders’ enthusiasm may outstrip scientific knowledge. Planting the wrong type of tree may do more harm than good if we’re discussing global warming. The New York Times reports using conifers where broad-leafed once flourished might increase global warming, while in colder regions, trees absorb more sun heat, again raising ground temperature.
We can’t win, at least until we learn there are no simple answers to complex problems, no matter what the issue. Until we can figure out the solutions for the dilemma of trees and global warming, we can treasure the trees currently in our lives. Parks, thoroughfares, pots, farms, mountains, forests–trees are everywhere. Let’s take note by celebrating the low-key, simple, friendly observance that’s Arbor Day.