As the last red leaves of autumn fall from the tree outside my study, I’ve been thinking about the Lorax’s question, ‘Who speaks for the trees?’ When that Dr. Seuss classic, beloved by children and adults alike, was published in 1971, most of us saw of it as symbolic of the environmental destruction caused by humans’ relentless overuse of natural resources. I expect we thought of the loss of trees as mostly an aesthetic loss. I know that my father was always quoting the Joyce Kilmer poem when I was young; “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.”
Maybe we recognized that trees provide shade as well, and so are useful when we are outside on a hot day. But it is only more recently that we have come to understand how important trees are to the world’s climate. Trees suck carbon from the air, and they are therefore hugely important to the fight against climate change which is caused in large part by carbon emitting activities like burning of fossil fuels. In fact, tree planting in the form of large scale forestration is one of the recommendations by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to combat global warming. The IPCC recognizes that we have to more than just limit or even eliminate carbon emissions; we have to remove some of the carbon that already exists in the atmosphere that is dangerously overheating the planet.
So, Chelmsford Climate Action Team speaks for the trees! We implore everyone to love their trees. Don’t cut them down, even if their leaves are a pain to rake up in the Fall. If you must cut down a tree for safety reasons, consider planting another in its place or contributing to an organization that plants trees, like the Arbor Foundation. The shade your trees provide can even help reduce your electricity costs in the summertime. Trees also provide shelter for birds, anchor soil, and perform other ecological benefits, as nature intended them to. Tree planting is an easy way to “think globally and act locally”!