Trees to the Rescue!

forestAs I tell any age student that I might be addressing; we can’t survive without water and air, so we better take care in regards to both. But it is impossible to discuss either water or air without addressing trees. They are vital to the health of our water cycle, oceans, rivers, and lakes as well as the very oxygen that we breath – they must be acknowledged first and foremost. The linchpin to our environmental salvation is trees.

“Trees are the ultimate act of Nature. They are the matrix of everything that is living, everything that gives life and everything that maintains life, including human life” – Author, Botanist, Biochemist Diana Beresford-Kroeger

 

Jim Robbins, The Man Who Planted Trees....

Jim Robbins, The Man Who Planted Trees….

A book by journalist/science writer Jim Robbins, aptly titled: The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet is really a near perfect primer offering the most comprehensive overview of the complex role trees play on the earth. Robbins centers his narrative on a Northern Michigan shade tree farmer, David Milarch. Milarch’s larger than life story – including a near death experience – culminates with his mission to propagate, archive and reforest champion tree species around the world. (More on David in jGj Earth Angel post)

David Milarch and Giant Redwoods

David Milarch and Giant Redwoods

Trees and plants offer the service of phytoremediation, meaning they mitigate pollutants in air, water and soil. It’s fairly common knowledge that trees filter water and air by sequestering carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen and water back into the atmosphere as well as providing habitats for insects and a multitude of animal species up the food chain, but this mighty little book illuminates how we benefit from trees in a myriad of additional ways, ultimately driving home the fact that we continue to eliminate our forests at our own peril. DeforestationIf you wonder if buying recycled paper goods makes a difference, just keep in mind that every year nearly 4 billion trees (35% of total forests) are used in paper industries around the world. Toilet paper is a big culprit. Here in the U.S., our desire for triple-ply softness has us literally flushing our precious virgin forests down the toilet. Of all the paper that should absolutely be from 100% post consumer waste – it is soft papers like toilet paper, tissues, paper napkins and paper towels (all compostable material by the way). Environmental groups estimate that 25-50 percent of the pulp used to make toilet paper in the U.S. comes from tree farms in South American and the U.S.. The remaining 50-75 percent comes from old growth forests so vital to carbon dioxide and green house gas absorption, which is our biggest chance at decelerating climate change. Some of the pulp is traced to the last virgin forests in North American, which are an irreplaceable habitat for a variety of endangered species. In fact, it is estimated that over 50,000 species are lost every year in our World’s forests.

Phytoplankton is the base of several aquatic food webs

Phytoplankton is the base of several aquatic food webs

The whole story of carbon sinking isn’t only about trees however. Phytoplankton is to the ocean what trees are to land. Oceans absorb between 30 and 50 percent of the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuel. Any change in the temperature of the ocean, influences the ability of phytoplankton to take up carbon dioxide. A vicious cycle is at work here. The destruction of our forests helps to heat up the planet – which in turn heats up the oceans, exacerbating acidification leading to dead zones. As little as a degree increase in the sea’s temperature has a dramatic effect on the oceanic ecosystem – beginning with phytoplankton. Suffocating the lungs of the seas has the same effect as decimating the filtering lungs of the forests. It’s all connected. As Pope Francis said this past May, “If we destroy creation, creation will destroy us. Never forget this.”

Fisher Stevens

Fisher Stevens

Oscar winner Fisher Stevens (The Cove) has directed a new film available on Netflix Aug. 15th called Mission Blue. I ran into Fisher at the Traverse City, MI airport on my way home from my visit with champion of the Champion Trees, David Milarch. Fisher was returning from said city’s film festival where Mission Blue had just screened. It turns out that he is starting a new project focusing on the psychology behind why the environment and climate change is not the most pressing issue of our time. There are more than a few of us environmentalist types with our theories on what disconnects people from nature to the point of self-destruction, but this film will no doubt be an illuminating mirror, hopefully offering some insight as a means to progress. Rolling Stone

Speaking of progress, according to Al Gore’s recent article in the July 2014 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, we are heading towards the light at the end of the fossil fuel clogged tunnel. In a country in which over 100 million people live in areas where the air is officially classified as unsafe to breath and asthma related illness is at record levels, ethically-bound institutions, as well as intelligent, forward-thinking businesses, are divesting from carbon-intensive assets at an ever increasing rate. Energy companies themselves are coming to the conclusion that the business/energy distribution models relied on thus far are less and less viable. In fact, Barclays downgraded the entirety of the U.S. electric sector, warning that “a confluence of declining cost trends in distributed solar-photovoltaic-power generation and residential-scale power storage is likely to disrupt the status quo” making utility investments less attractive. This simply means that renewable energy and technologies are getting cheaper and more accessible by the minute. After all, cash is king. If cleaner energy fails to get people’s attention, cheaper energy most certainly will.

Did you know that enough raw energy reaches the Earth from the sun in one hour to equal all of the energy used by the entire world in a full year?

So, let’s recap: Deforestation effects our water, our air, our health, adds degrees to the fever our earth currently suffers from which raises further the rising sea levels and temperatures, contributes additional toxins to air and water in very the act of deforesting, eliminates habitat for whole species of animals rendering them endangered or extinct, is responsible for desertification of large areas or the earth resulting in drought and the displacement of whole populations of people exacerbating disease, civil unrest, forced migration and in many cases, leading to war. Did I miss anything?

What you can do:

Always buy 100% recycled paper products

Recycle ALL recyclables!

Compost (which is recycling)

Support local, organic farms (reducing toxic chemicals/pesticides in our waterways)

Sign up for renewable energy options with your utility

Get off catalog/junk mail lists by going to dmachoice.org; optout@abacus-us.com or catalogchoice.org.

Plant a tree or support organizations like GROW or Ancient Tree Archive (read tree-planting scams before proceeding)

Replace one-time use plastics (which include disposable water bottles, plastic snack/sandwich bags and plastic grocery bags) with healthy, reusable options.

Make your own “green” cleaners – which reduces toxins in your home and our water systems (I offer recipes every post).

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About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have.

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