January 1, 2018

My story, and suggestion, about trees

30 years old and three stories tall

I am a father to a little boy, but I have another child that I haven't talked about very much. This child dates back to 1988, has been indoors -- inside of a church -- exactly once, and has now grown to a height greater than a three-story building. This child, at this writing nearly thirty years of age, isn't human but is instead a tree, pictured above.

When I was in eighth grade, I had suggested the idea of buying and planting a commemorative tree and did some organizing to help with efforts. To my school's and church's credit, they approved the idea and purchased a sapling which was part of a small ceremony and then later planted at a patch of land behind the church. My original hope and vision was that this tree would be the first of a series of trees to be planted by succeeding classes. Alas, that didn't happen -- indeed, the grade school I attended closed down just twelve years after I graduated. Considering the size of tree grew, it may have been just as well; with one or more additional trees, there probably wouldn't have been enough room to sustain them all in that plot of land.

But there's no reason why we can't plant more trees. In fact, there should be more trees -- a lot more trees. We, as a species, need to offset the carbon that we're pouring into the atmosphere to reduce the ever-greater likelihood of civilization-destroying death-heat. We can turn the pressing need into a cultural norm, like giving presents at Christmas.

Carl Sagan, in his final book Billions and Billions, wrote about this in 1996 in a passage that bears quoting at length:

...the amount of land worldwide that must be reforested in order for growing trees to make a major contribution [to offsetting atmospheric carbon] is enormous, about the area of the United States. This can only be done as a collaborative enterprise of the human species. Instead, the human species is destroying an acre of forest every second. Everyone can plant trees -- individuals, nations, industries. But especially industry. Applied Energy Services in Arlington, Virgina, has built a coal-fired power plant in Connecticut; it is also planting trees in Guatemala that will remove from the Earth's atmosphere more carbon than the company's new facility will inject into the air over its operational lifetime. Shouldn't lumber companies plant more forests -- of the fast-growing, leafy variety useful for mitigating the greenhouse effect -- than they cut down? What about the coal, oil, natural gas, petroleum, and automobile industries? Shouldn't every company that puts CO2 into the atmosphere be engaged in removing it as well? Shouldn't every citizen? What about planting trees at Christmastime? Or birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. Our ancestors came from the trees, and we have a natural affinity for them. It is perfectly appropriate to plant more.

I was originally intending to write this blog post with the intent of galvanizing an effort to plant new trees for Christmas, rather than chop down trees for temporary use for a month and worsen carbon capture efforts. Changing Christmas from a tree-killing holiday to a tree-planting holiday is a noble effort, but in many parts of the world (like where I live and grew up), it can get too cold.

Let's extend the idea further, for the whole year. On this New Year's Day 2018, let's make a commitment: Plant at least one tree at some point during the year 2018. You can plant a tree birthdays, weddings, anniversaries -- and Christmastime. I'll post on this website details of the tree that I'll plant this year.