The Power of Trees
Trees are one of the planet's vital natural resources and one of the longest living organisms on earth. They provide habitats for plant life, wildlife, food for animals and birds. They absorb harmful gases and produce much of the oxygen in the air we breathe. Trees release oxygen when using energy from sunlight to make glucose from carbon dioxide and water. The amount of oxygen released from a tree can depend on the trees species, age, it's health as well as its environmental surroundings. One human may breath out about 9.5 tones of air in a year and over the course of its life, a single tree can absorb about one ton of carbon dioxide. 20% of the oxygen on earth is produced by the Amazon Rainforest alone. It used to be 40% but things are changing and fast.
The sanctuary that woodlands, forests and rain forests provide are undoubtedly, rare and irreplaceable ecosystems and should be considered a global heritage. How does humanity perceive the forests around the world, do we think of them often in our everyday lives?
Many of the daily resources we depend on originate from trees. Much of the fruits, foods and medicines we use in our modernised lives originate from plant life found in rain forests. More potential possibilities and discoveries are still being made today in rain forests around the world.
There is documented evidence to suggest that there are plants in the rain forest capable of curing many modern day diseases and illnesses, the key to moving forward can be found in nature.
Woodlands and rain forests are places of majestic natural beauty and are important reservoirs, valuable ecosystems supporting life for an extreme amount of species of biodiversity.
A mature tree can remove almost 70 times more pollution than a newly planted tree. The average adult when resting, inhales and exhales about 7 or 8 litres of air per minute. That totals about 11,000 litres of air per day. Human beings take in about 550 litres of pure oxygen per day.
Without trees life is hard to imagine.
Much evidence is coming through about the healing benefits of spending time around trees and woodlands. Japanese scientists have been studying the healing power of trees since 1982 and run countless scientific experiments with people and patients. They found that increased exposure to the outdoors, trees and forest environments, had a positive effect on both mental health and physical wellbeing. They have creating a form of nature healing called Shinrin-Yoku, also known as Forest Bathing. Forest bathing is now incorporated into Japanese culture and many people of all ages practise spending active time around trees and woodlands.
When you expose natural senses to the natural world, you active specific neurons in the brain which may lay dormant, for example, if you stay too much time indoors staring at a computer screen. Prolonged exposure to technological devices may have an effect on mental health and sleeping patterns. Spending time around nature in the outdoors helps to bring into balance, the natural human cycle, In fact, spending time around nature makes us better humans.
It’s important to encourage children and young people. to spend more time in nature for wellbeing and education. In the book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv talks about nature deficit disorder. How during our modern times there is an isolation and separation developing in our modern world towards nature, especially with children. How less exposure to the natural world can contribute towards mental health problems and how spending more time in woodlands can contribute to healing and developing the brains of young people.
In is now a well known fact that nature exposure contributes to healthy humans. Humans are eternally a part of the natural world. Over the years whilst we have developed our technological advances, we have become separate from nature. We must relearn to work together with nature, not against it, for a more secure and sustainable future.
Doctors in Scotland have now started prescribing nature walks and bird watching to patients, forest bathing practitioners are popping up around the country, nature healing is coming through. The more we live it in our everyday lives, the faster we can manifest it into our societies.
If being exposed to nature makes us better human beings, what would happen to the human psyche if nature did not exist; would we become less human?
When we watch films of the future, we always see an endless land scape of concrete jungle, flying cars and high rising urban environments. Where are all the trees and green land space? There is none left.
Is this the futuristic landscape we envision for our children or children’s children? David Attenborough spokes the words "we are living economic infinite growth on a finite planet" In our fight to develop and progress, we are depleting the natural world at an alarming rate, increasing global warming and effecting the world’s climate.
The UN has released a global message asking all countries around the world to increase tree planting efforts. Trees have the power to absorb harmful emissions in the atmosphere, regulate global weather patterns, reduce flooding & draught, keep soils health, provide habitat for wildlife, create vital oxygen to breathe and keep city air cool. There are many reasons in which to plant trees; and also protect the last remaining ancient forests of the world. In the UK alone there is 2% of ancient woodland left and once these habitats are gone, they are gone forever. You cannot replace ancient woodland as these natural environments have taken thousands of years to develop. Woodland Trust and other forest conservation organisations around the world, such as RAIN are working to regenerate degraded land, using syntropic farming and agroforestry methods, to speed up the process of regeneration and restoring habitats, lost rivers and forests, by creating tree planting projects.
Currently there are powers that be and corporations around the world that are exploiting rainforest and woodland habitats in the name of capital and economic development, for the benefit of a consumer world. There are many people around the world today who are questioning our way of life and asking for change. Many different cultures no longer wish to contribute to a destructive form of living but a live more sustainable life. Young people around the world are connecting to each other through social media platforms, taking a stand by taking to the streets, as they are concerned for their wellbeing and futures.
When studying International Development as a degree, I asked a question to my lecturer. "With rapid development and increased urban environments and city landscapes around the world. Can the earth handle the capacity of our modern development?"
If the current mode of development involves stripping and depleting the natural world of its resources for progress. When will it end? Countries around the world such as China and Brazil are arguing the same thing I was hearing over 25 years at university "If you stripped your lands of its resources for progress, why can’t we? Compensate us or shut up and let us progress!"
It all seems to be acting like a runaway train and if we explore societies of the past, that lived this form of economic model. We will find that in the end they all ended up destroying themselves or invading other countries for their natural resources.
There is a Native American Indian saying "When the last tree has been cut, and the rivers are poisoned, we will realise that we cannot eat money" This form of economic progress is also known as capitalism.
There are currently many tree planting initiatives taking place around the world.
A number of countries in Africa have joined together to create a giant wall of trees stretching across west to east Africa.
In the UK, the Woodland Trust have been government funded and are working in partnership with a number of other charities to help create the UK’s largest forested area called the Northern Forest. Stretching from Leeds all the way across to Hull this is a 25 year project. Woodland Trust also launched a recent campaign encouraging 1 million people in the UK to plant trees, called the Big Climate Fightback #EveryTreeCounts
Make your pledge to plant a tree, visit: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/bigclimatefightback
India recently planted 63 million trees in two days as an environmental initiative. Ethiopia recently planted 122 million trees. Norway has become the first country in the world to ban deforestation. More and more people around the world are beginning to talk about trees and their importance to survival.
It’s important to support organisations which are helping to restore degraded forest environments, tree planting initiatives and forest conservation. No amount of tree planting can replace our ancient forest habitats.
In the UK, there are five Celtic ancient temperate rainforests stretching across the west coast, where it has its own micro-climate from the Gulf Stream. One of these forests is known as Wistmans Wood, found in Dartmoor in Devon, four hours away from London.
Scotland and Wales are also well known for harbouring temperate rainforest habitats.
Find a local tree planting event in your area or even plant a tree in your own back garden if you have the space. Make sure your tree is of native species and disease free. You can purchase seeds or trees from your local garden centre.
The Woodland Trust, the UK's largest woodland conservation charity also has positive tree planting initiatives available for people, schools and communities. You can order a Tree Pack and get planting with your family and friends in your community or school. For schools, land owners or communities check out how to apply for free trees from the Woodland Trust.
There are many valuable reasons for people and communities to take part in tree planting. Staff within outdoor education express that young people develop a stronger connection to the environment around them once they have taken part in physical activities which promote environmental awareness.
Through experience young people become aware that their actions have played a positive and sustainable initiative in reducing pollution, preventing flooding or even assisting in the regeneration of woodlands in the UK. Given them the opportunity to immerse themselves in understanding the importance of applied action to create positive sustainable outcomes for the future.
Rain forests cover less than 3% of the planet and yet contain more than half of all living these known to mankind, they are abundant in biodiversity, ecological systems.
Many of our medicines and building materials originate from rainforest and we are still discovering new species of plants and animals today. So why would we ever wish to destroy the trees of the planet? For fossils fuels, consumption, palm oil, beef production, timber, farming or agricultural purposes.
Indigenous cultures have lived in rain forests since the beginning of time and have a strong connection to the natural world, they believe they are spiritually connected to the plants and practice natural world appreciate in their daily lives. Planting a tree creates a sense of connection to the natural world. It can help generate empowerment, strengthen humanities connection to the natural world and it encourages sustainable thinking. Consciously knowing that you have given something positive and long-term back to the earth. Trees are life. Plant trees to support future generations, tree planting has become a powerful worldwide movement.
Join the treesistance!
"One acre of trees annually consumes the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to that produced by driving an average car for 26,000 miles. That same acre of trees also produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe for a year." - New York Times
Tree for Cities is a charity working on an international scale to create greener cities. Since 1993 they have engaged over 70,000 people to plant over 600,000 urban trees in parks, streets, schools and housing estates across the UK.
They focus on planting trees and creating greener community spaces. In London this might mean planting trees to create cleaner air or even to transform unused community spaces into vibrant green areas, making communities happier and healthier. The planting season runs from October to March but there are opportunities for volunteers to help Trees for Cities across London throughout the year and there are helpful Trees for Cities staff to support people when volunteering. Get involved with a school, youth group or community and help to create a greener city for future generations.
"A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs/year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings." - McAliney, Mike. Arguments for Land Conservation: Documentation and Information Sources for Land Resources Protection, Trust for Public Land, Sacramento, CA, December, 1993
It is vital to understand that these ecosystems - ancient woodlands that have been around since the ice age, the 2% that still remains in the UK are considered to be rare and irreplaceable habitats.
Once they are gone, there is no replacing or regenerating them.
Just as a historic building may have, ancient woodlands deserve protective rights too as they are irreplaceable ecosystems. The soil in these landscapes is like no other and cannot be regenerated as it has taken thousands of years to reach its nutrient potency and richness.
There are cultures around the world that share a strong value and respect for the natural world and nature. A sense we seem to have forgotten in the western modern way of living, our influences differ very much to our ancestors, who grew up around more natural environments. We must stop and ask ourselves, what kind of world do we want to have in the future?
It's important to encourage our children to care and have respect for the natural world and one of many inspiring ways to do that, is to plant a tree. Young people will be playing an active role in contributing to a greener and more healthier environment. However, you if do not expose a child to the natural world at an early age, this may create a disconnection to the natural world during adulthood.
Tree planting is a hands-on environmental activity to take part in and many parents and teachers have expressed the positive effects it has had on many of the young people and how it has inspired youth to take an interest and actively engage into the natural world and wildlife at an early age. Natural England recently conducted a study and found that if we do not connect children to nature and the outdoors before the age of ten years old, then as an adult they become more apathetic and disengaged into the natural world.
"On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four." - Environment Canada, Canada's national environmental agency.
We are heavily reliant on the produce from trees and in our modern societies. Though in our dependency and consumption can we make more of an effort to teach the youth of today the true value of nature and developing their respect for natural world? To create more environmentally conscious adults for the future. It's estimated that by 2050, 7 out of 10 people will be living in a city. But can the planet really handle the capacity of our modern human development and what exactly are we doing to create a more sustainable future?
In Piplantri in Rajastan India is a culture that plants 111 trees every time a baby girl is born. The practice of planting trees in correlation with the birth of a child works to ensure that the local environment will be able to support and sustain the ever growing population. In other tribal cultures around the world, a tree is planted every time a child is born, the child then grows up with the tree and develops a natural connection to the land.
Many creative tree planting initiatives are coming forward, that are bringing communities together in an effort to protect nature.
It is important to become aware of our actions now and how they will effect the next few generations to come. Regardless of our lives in the city, it is vital to keep a close connection and relationship to the natural world. Get outdoors. Discover nature.