More Trees Please

A closer look at the importance of tree planting,
preserving our forests and green space development

Tree-planting exercises and related activities have quickly become a cornerstone of many environmental campaigns over the last few years.  This aggressive and quite firm approach regarding tree planting is everywhere seen as a doable, simple and effective way to help reduce the impact of carbon emissions while restoring natural ecosystems that exist all around us.

Perhaps the most ambitious example is the Trillion Trees campaign launched by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in the year 2020, which supports the United Nations’ decade of Ecosystem Restoration. This initiative aims quite specifically to restore, protect, or plant a total of 1 trillion trees by 2030.  That followed a similar campaign aiming to plant 1 trillion trees by 2050 which was kicked off in 2018. Such lofty forum-based, and global aims and objectives are welcomed and applauded but locally, are we sure, confident and as driven as we should be? This is something that we must critically unpack and access if we are to demonstrate that we are climate-smart, climate-change ready, efficient and resilient.

The Benefits & Usefulness of Trees:
Examining the usefulness, real-life purposes, and overall value of trees is an extensive task, but the very basic and known benefits are that trees protect the earth from soil erosion, fires, flooding, and wind. Forest or green space developers, gardeners and large-scale farmers use trees as fences, windbreaks, and barriers. Most important in all of this is the air that we breathe, the quality and the quantity as a direct result of the oxygen inserted into the atmosphere courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood tree (especially the long-standing ones that everyone stands in awe of).

The oxygen generated from trees serves to effectively clean the carbon dioxide out of the air we breathe. Without trees, human life and existence would be all shortened, at risk, or even threaten to making extinct quite unceremoniously civilization and humanity as we know it. Trees have also proved to remove airborne particles from the atmosphere, serving to reduce smog, thereby acting as a natural filtration system for the air that we breathe daily and improving overall our respiratory health. The work trees do in improving the air quality, is one of the most critical ways in which we as humans benefit. 

Birds, insects and other animals are encouraged to thrive, multiply and take up residence when trees are abundant and present in a space. Varying levels and the canopies of trees provide natural habitats to a wide array and diverse spectrum of wildlife, from the lower levels up to the very high canopies. Forest garden farmers often also use trees as a place to build hives to bring bees to their land to assist in pollination and collect honey.

The loss of various species continues to occur at a disturbingly alarming rate, so established and natural spaces for biodiversity are critical, as it helps keep our planet green, growing and thriving. All mentioned and the most obvious is the sustenance of human life even further through our food sources and supply. Quite simply put, trees are the basis of sustaining life on Earth.

Why should we invest in green space development?
Investing in trees through planting, caring for, and maintenance will certainly produce significant returns on investments in future, especially as older and larger trees provide the most benefits. Old trees are critically important globally from an ecological and cultural perspective. Despite their importance, these such trees and their overall population are declining globally.

The presence of trees in any ‘built-up’ or urban setting can contribute significantly to improving mental health by reducing stress levels. Living in areas with a larger percentage of green spaces correlates with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Added to this, trees and greener areas and environments are strongly linked to the reduction of negative thoughts and actions, reduced symptoms of depression, better moods through increased endorphins and increased overall life satisfaction. 

A seemingly counterintuitive idea is to pair the possible economic benefits on a list of health benefits of trees, a robust and resilient local economy actually would provide for more access to vital, life-sustaining resources such as a fresh, healthy food source and adequate healthcare and services.

While physical infrastructure degrades and depreciates over time, trees only gain value as they mature, therefore this can serve in improving property values along with them. Higher property value contributes to the morale and vibrancy of communities that feel safe and surely encourage people to engage more in outdoor activities. 

As you walk through the trees, especially in an old-growth forest, you are immersed in an air bath of natural forest biochemicals released as a fine aerosol mist. Tree aerosols have anti-cancer properties, improve circulation and decrease high blood pressure. They also have antibiotic, antifungal and anti-rheumatic effects. Some tree aerosols suppress the flow of the stress hormone cortisol, which can reduce anxiety and boost our immune systems.

Reforestation and Afforestation:
Politicians, leaders, environmental activists, organizations and governments across the world have campaigned heavily for ways to reduce the effects of climate change and global warming. Afforestation and Reforestation are two of the most spoken-about topics and are widely discussed in depth when it comes to solutions to global warming.

Afforestation helps to reduce the pressure on preexisting natural forests regarding the demand for forest products by being an alternative source of such products. Afforestation is primarily done based on commercial benefits. However, it still helps to reduce deforestation of existing forests as they take time to grow naturally and due to the increased demand for products can’t properly replenish their stock. Efforts in afforestation also allow for people to plant tree species more in demand so that they can be supplied to customers requiring them for various purposes. For example, cottage industries benefit tremendously from constant reliable supplies of forest products at relatively stable and reasonable prices. 

Areas which are largely devoid of plants, trees and greenery, in general, are likely to become highly susceptible to soil erosion as there is no interconnecting network of roots to hold the various layers of the soil of the land which is highly fertile. This leads to massive topsoil runoff, leading to soil erosion which can become comparable to on-land pollution. 

Forests provide the raw material for the pulp and paper industry, furniture manufacturing, and more, therefore this resource should be renewed. However, reforestation is important not only to support industrial needs. Reforestation reverses climate change as trees consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. 

Reforestation efforts are also rewarded with improved health statistics of the Earth’s population and the environment in general. Forest farms, it is a business that requires wise management to bring profit. By planting trees in areas that have been degraded or deforested, reforestation helps the natural environment by guaranteeing, or accelerating the re-establishment of healthy forest structure by regrowing the forest canopy and preserving biodiversity within the ecosystem. 

More Trees Please:
A concept which rolls off the tongue quite nicely, and is a grand marketing idea for environmental efforts, both for reforestation and protection efforts for green spaces, forests, and tree-specific awareness. Many efforts which align with the “more trees please” can utilize this slogan as an effective, hard-hitting and creative addition to efforts across all sectors in ensuring that steps are continuously taken to generate awareness and education (not just in the traditional sense through schools and academic structures), but through practical, real-life and community-driven activism. This can and will serve in the long run to etch the need for the ‘principle of green’ in the minds, actions and decisions of those that are in authority now, and by extension the generations to come. #MoreTreesPlease

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