Tree Joys and Benefits

Imagine mornings, without coffee, orange juice or birdsongs. Or Thanksgiving dinners without apple pie. Weekend brunches of waffles, pancakes and French toast, minus maple syrup (perhaps substitute cactus agave?). Childhood memories of winter family outings into the bush, without the magical moments of sugaring off and the heady aroma as maple sap turns into syrup, or, camping and cottaging memories without the snap, crackle, pop of a brightly burning camp fire to sing and toast marshmallows around.

Banana splits, sans les bananes? Would marzipan be marzipan, minus the almonds? What of iconic images of tropical paradises of sun, sand and surf, without the swaying palm trees? What would August be like every year, without the prospect and pleasure of juicy, sun-kissed, tree-ripened peaches to anticipate?

Yes, human nutrition and experiences would be greatly diminished without these and many more bounteous edible offerings and simple pleasures that trees offer to us. To say nothing of the habitats they provide for insects and animals around the world. In fact, according to Science Daily at https://bit.ly/357p6U2, one third of the world’s crops depend on pollination by insects and other pollinators that live in trees.

The world’s oldest boat building site is 8000 years old according to this Telegraph article at https://bit.ly/2PsKDzX. Would naval travel have taken longer to emerge in our history, if not for trees? Without trees, what would replace the iconic birch bark canoe in our Canadian imagination and cherished memories of northern canoe paddling adventures, real or imagined?  What subjects would have inspired the Group of Seven’s paintings? https://bit.ly/2s8OsCs

Of course, human evolution would have taken place still without trees. Just differently. And yielding different (but still pleasant) memories.

Imagine if Canada might have chosen to enshrine the beaver or loon perhaps on our own flag when creating it for the first time in 1965, had maple trees not existed. How would this saying be transformed – “As American as mom and apple pie,” – in a world without apple trees? And, what would have prompted Sir Isaac Newton to ponder about gravity in the absence of this now famous apple tree? https://bit.ly/2RCjT2C

Photo:MaryAnn Griffin

Robert Frost would have needed new inspiration and a different title to pen his poem, The Sound of Trees, https://bit.ly/2RzmbiV, and Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem which begins “I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree….,” would literally be true in a world without trees, https://bit.ly/2rtxWgf . Would Shel Silverstein have been inspired to write The Giving Tree, we wonder?

One of our favourite Impressionist artists, Claude Monet, might not have given the world the beloved Water Lily series of paintings, if not for the inspiration of the many willows in his gardens at Giverny. We found this site which offers images of 10 famous artworks inspired by nature, some featuring trees prominently, https://bit.ly/2YCoZxm.

Our imaginations and spirits can find inspiration in trees. Our hunger can be fed and nourished by the fruit they bear. And literally, trees keep us alive through the life-giving oxygen they produce. If that weren’t enough service, when we humans pollute the air we need to breathe to survive, trees act as “sinks,” capturing and absorbing life-threatening carbon dioxide emissions and converting them through photosynthesis to clean oxygen and nutrients. Pretty awesome powers and gifts to the world we think as we paused for a moment to consider trees anew, in writing today’s blog post.

Even five minutes around trees may improve health, says this New York State website, https://on.ny.gov/2RzdjKj. It goes on to list these additional health benefits, and at the bottom of the page, provides the reference list of scientific papers to back its findings, “Exposure to forests and trees:

  • boosts the immune system
  • lowers blood pressure
  • reduces stress
  • improves mood
  • increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
  • increases energy level
  • improves sleep.”

Additional health benefits, plus the supporting research, are described in this US News report, https://bit.ly/2sciYuY, and include asthma reduction, and a large-scale study which found that trees and greenery may even boost life span

Tree Canada’s website elaborates on Tree Benefits, noting that one in four pharmaceuticals are plant-based, including extracts from the yew tree which are used for the chemotherapy drug Taxol, https://bit.ly/38iEwqu. In its extensive list of tree benefits, Tree Canada also offers this useful reference point as we are learning and thinking more about our own carbon footprints – “You need about 500 full-sized trees to absorb the carbon dioxide produced by a typical car driven 20,000 km/year.” 

This US study reported on the health and economic benefits of trees ($1B benefit to California from the presence of street trees) by comparing and contrasting two cities in California, one with an urban tree policy, and the other, without one https://bit.ly/2rkrHeR. The UK’s Guardian reports on research on the health benefits of living on tree-lined streets. It also discusses the Japanese practice and government health policy of shinrinyoku – literally forest bath – and its power “to counter illnesses including cancer, strokes, gastric ulcers, depression, anxiety and stress,” which western doctors are now discovering and agreeing on as benefits for human health and well being by mindfully spending time under a tree canopy and “getting back to nature,” even in urban settings https://bit.ly/36tKm6P.

T-shirt: Etsy-Hibiscus Oak Designs

Finally, for the avid researcher, or for Readers who want more evidence, here is a link to a literature review on the scientific benefits of trees by the Chicago Region Tree Initiative on its website at http://chicagorti.org/TreeBenefits.  Our main take aways from writing this blog, are that tree benefits are powerful, personal (boosts life spans!) and planetary (essential to fighting global warming). Our “triple P” case for Tree planting!

Trees have brought us joy in many forms, either directly or indirectly. They have provided food, and sustained the life cycle as we know it. But that is not to say that, without trees, or with a limited number of trees, our lives would be less memorable. The memories would just be different. The point we think is that, in the future, we humans may destroy the opportunity to enjoy all the nutrition, activities, memories and life-sustaining clean air benefits that trees have provided us over the years. For millions of years evolution has been supported, fed, and nurtured by trees. In order to continue to be able to enjoy our historic pleasures, live and recreate fond memories, we need trees. Plain and simple. (Plus, human beings still need to do our part to change lifestyles and keep innovating economic practices in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, dramatically and with urgency).

T-shirt: Wholesome Culture

On that note, we were pleased to see that Climate Action got its own section in the federal government’s December 5, 2019 Speech from the Throne, including confirmation of Canada’s commitment to plant two billion trees as part of the country’s plan for meeting our 2030 and 2050 targets under the UNFCCC https://bit.ly/36jB8tK.

This December 9th UN Climate Change update reports on promising steps being taken among members of the global data community for a common framework for “tracking the climate action of regions, cities, businesses, investors and initiatives which can help with the effective implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement,” https://bit.ly/348a6DU . We’ll be watching for, and reporting back to our Readers on, the COP 25’s Closing Press Release expected on December 13, 2019; here’s hoping global leaders make rapid progress in converting their rhetoric into meaningful climate action for achieving a 1.5C carbon-zero Planet Earth asap.

Next Thursday’s post will be in keeping with the festive holiday spirit. We plan to offer tree-themed reading ideas from our Readers, and more, for those who are looking to relax and curl up with a good read over the holidays….then, we too will take a brief holiday break ourselves – so no blog post on December 26th. We’ll be back with our weekly post on Thursday, January 2, 2020. Please go anytime to our blog to check the Resources and other pages. We added a link in Resources to the blog: Spud.ca where you can see 5 cute tabletop Christmas tree alternative options. Thank you to our readers for giving us this link and others.

2 thoughts on “Tree Joys and Benefits

  1. Audrey

    Your message was so INSPIRING and so filled with information. Thank you.
    For your novels to read, have a look at Greenwood by Michael Christie. I have a copy to lend you, Catherine. Looking forward to your next post, A

    Like

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