|Back to Home||Feature Article - June 7, 2012|
Trees help with global warming, energy costs and property valuesby Kim Ondaatje
A curved line is more interesting than a straight one. This is true whether we look at the human figure, a path, or a road that curves around trees. Property values in south-western Connecticut are the highest in the eastern U.S. not only because of their proximity to Manhattan but because of the abundance of trees lending shade, privacy and beauty to the landscape.
In Connecticut, each town has a tree warden. In order to cut down a fair sized tree - the size is determined by each particular jurisdiction - a permit must be obtained from the warden and posted on the tree for two weeks. If anyone objects, a whole complicated procedure begins. Most developers, contractors, architects and property owners avoid this time-consuming inconvenience and simply work around the trees.
Many of us have forgotten what we learned in elementary school about trees producing oxygen. In a mature sugar bush, a sugar maple of 18 inches (46 centimetres) in diameter produces enough oxygen for two humans to live on for a year. A square acre of mature woodland can eliminate the poisonous emissions of the average car driven 20,000 kilometres in a year. When a 747 takes off, it pushes a huge amount of such emissions into the air equaling an amount similar to that of all the cars on Highway 401 between Toronto and Montreal in a day.
The only day when the atmosphere surrounding our Planet Earth improved was the day after 9-11 when no large aircraft flew. Unless all the concerned and knowledgeable citizens on this planet plant lots of trees - billions of them - and care for the existing ones, the remaining rain forests in particular, it may well become necessary in the not too distant future to ban all large aircraft and thereby limit air travel for pleasure. The planting of trees all over the planet could do much to postpone this happening.
Whether we plant on a small or large scale, it is important to note the precedent set by nature. In a natural forest, a mixture of all kinds exists. Unfortunately, most conservation areas and reforestation projects in the past tended to plant just one kind of tree, which makes it easy for the pine beetle, the spruce budworm, or whatever else threatens the species planted.
In the forest, variety means survival. Variety can even make a difference in a row of trees, as can the distance between them. On this 200-year-old farm, apple trees planted over fifty metres apart continue to exist and produce without ever having been sprayed.
As a child in Toronto, I rode my pony and picked wild strawberries in fields south of Lawrence Avenue, across Avenue Road from Havergal College. Today, looking out a hotel window at Pearson Airport north of the 401, treeless suburbs stretch out to the horizon. How vulnerable all those homes look and are to the elements.
Shade trees and evergreen windbreaks can cut down on the consumption of energy and the subsequent costs by as much as twenty percent. They also add beauty, comfort and privacy, and increase property values.
With the increase in global warming, it is obvious that we in Canada, with our multitude of treeless suburbs, vast parking lots and shopping malls, need to find - as the citizens of Connecticut did - imaginative and legal means of encouraging developers, contractors, architects, designers and individuals to incorporate into their plans and costs the planting of trees, whether what they build is for private, public or corporate use.
Contractors have the equipment needed for planting even 15-foot trees, and they know where to plant without interfering with pipes, cables and wires. Experienced nursery staff know what kind and which variety is best suited to a particular soil, region and reason for planting.
For example, the need for deep watering has increased with global warming. Sprinkling encourages roots to spread out near the surface where they bake; deep watering once or twice a week is more beneficial than sprinkling every night or morning; it entices the roots to do down where the soil is cooler and may even be damp.
As the need to conserve water increases, it is good to note that trees and shrubs can help: their branches, leaves and needles serve to avoid run-off. They break up the downpours that often occur in summer storms, especially after long hot dry periods, when without such an interruption the much needed water would rush over the hard ground to the gutters instead of dripping off the trees and bushes and soaking into the parched earth.
In spraying and fertilizing, it is essential that products containing harmful and toxic chemicals be avoided. Far too many wells and waterways above and below ground have already been contaminated and the result has affected all kinds of life on earth already.
Governments alone cannot possibly cope with all that needs to be done to combat or even control global warming. It is up to each individual to do what they can by downsizing, changing lifestyles, recycling, avoiding activities that consume energy other than their own, or whatever.
It takes 25-35 years to grow a fair sized shade tree, and 10-15 years to create a windbreak in the form of a cedar hedge or row of staggered spruce. What we do today will affect the comfort or suffering of our children, grandchildren and their children. Years ago, my Ojibway tutor spoke of the importance of thinking seven generations ahead. Caring for and planting trees is just one of a multitude of things that informed and responsible individuals can do today.