One of the stories about societies that choose to fail or succeed in Jared Diamond’s book Collapse is about the people of Papua New Guinea. They discovered that their island nation was starting to have serious issues with land erosion, lack of fresh water and ability to feed themselves. Fortunately for them, someone understood that the issues were causes by cutting down the trees. They decided to solve the problem. They focused on tree planting but with an emphasis on fruit trees because this would also solve part of their food problem. Today their society is thriving.
Another country working aggressively toward environmental solutions to their problems is India.
In July 800,000 people turned out to attempt to plant 50 million tree saplings across the state of
“Uttar Pradesh in 24 hours which was also an attempt to break a world record set by Pakistan in 2013 of 847,275 trees…. Students, lawmakers, government officials and others headed out to plant trees at designated spots along roads, rail tracks and in forested lands.”* Hopefully this won’t be their only attempt at beating the world record. The Indian government is encouraging all states to start tree-planting drives like the one in Uttar Pradesh. It has designated more than $6.2 billion for this purpose alone. India pledged to push its forest cover to 235 million acres by 2030.
With these world-wide accomplishments in mind, let’s think about what we could do locally if we had the desire. Drive around town and look for property with few or no trees. Wonder about why this is so. Do people not plant trees because they don’t like trees? Or is it because they don’t want to rake leaves? Or do some people love extremely hot environments? Or are these rental houses?
Ok, let’s not worry about why. Let’s focus on what the benefits of growing trees are. Here’s how you can tell very quickly. Drive down Broadway through auto row on a really hot sunny day with your windows rolled up and no air conditioning. Then drive across the area of Littleton Blvd between Windermere and the railroad on the same day with the same conditions. Feel the difference?
Stand in the middle of the parking lot at Woodlawn midday away from the trees for about 5 minutes. Then walk over and stand under one of the trees there. Find a street in any part of town that has lots of mature trees, such as Bemis north of Lake Ave. Feel the difference?
What else do trees do for us? Filter air? Breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen? Create mini ecosystems? Produce organic matter for this desert we live in? Provide nesting areas for birds and other animals? Filter water down to the water table? Provide food for us?
When planting trees, plan ahead. Think about what they will grow under – avoid power lines. Don’t plant trees that will shade the roof of your house in case you want to get solar panels. Plant trees that will produce fruit. Plant something other than ash trees because of the Emerald Ash Borer. Don’t plant Russian Olive trees because they use too much water. Plant trees that will provide partial shade for a garden because vegetables do not need full sun 8 hours a day, and in Colorado they often cook and die if they do.
Now is a good time to buy a tree from any local nursery because the prices should be much lower. Get instructions on how to plant them and follow those instructions. Plant one for your kids, plant one for your grandchildren, plant one for the future. Just Get Planting!!!
As an anonymous Green proverb says, “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.”