Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The War Against the Trees

I grew up in a southern New England town where people hated trees. It is a northern Rhode Island (aka the Pavement State) mill town that has very few trees and probably getting more paved everyday. People who live there seem to have a love affair with pavement. You could actually hear people complain about a tree in their yard that is destroying the pavement. The roots of the tree were busting through and cracking the pavement ... must kill the tree. I grew up there and it wasn't until I was older, in my twenties, that I started noticing how odd this was. The ironic thing is that the city stank and no one seemed to connect the two. The same people who hated the trees would also complain the loudest about the smell. Since trees are actually clean air factories ... you think they would want more trees. Ignorance is infectious and it is easier to move when you are an American, than it is to change people's minds.

I know this is not a "city thing." I lived in Boston for 10 years. Actually for a few of those years, in the largest city in New England, I lived on a dirt road. It was a dead end road and a lot more like an alley than a road, but it was dirt and gravel. This is rare in Boston but I wasn't far from a lot of trees. The arboretum wasn't far. Bostonians are in love with their arboretum. Visiting Arnold Arboretum on a sunny day in any season is a joyous event. This is all you need if you ever need any proof that Bostonians really are not that rude, but quite friendly. They just need some trees and perhaps a little sun to cheer them up. The same could be said about Central Park in Manhattan and probably any other big city. I am not sure why the tiny city that I grew up is any different. I don't know if it has changed. I haven't been there for years.

I live in northern New England now in a rural setting. I would have to walk for over a mile from my front door to find pavement. For a while, if you looked up my address in Google Earth, all you would see on your screen is a big green patch. Quite lovely! When I step out my door each day, I take a deep breath of fresh air to remind myself of where I live. I am grateful for getting out and pleased of the choices I have made in life.

We lost an apple tree during the first snow storm at our current house. It was the closest tree to our back deck so we were quite sad to lose it. But now, several years later, another tree is growing in its place. I sometimes feel that I have not moved two states north, but a different planet. People love their trees up here. I guess I am a tree hugger. I feel at home here in tree-hugger-central.

One of my favorite NPR commentators is Robert Krulwich. His show Radio Lab is my favorite science radio show. I listen to a lot of science shows but this one is the best. He also does a commentary now and then on NPR and I heard one today about trees. That's what got me thinking and then writing about them. According to this commentary the ratio of trees to humans on the Earth are 61 to 1. Considering the amount of tree products we use everyday from toilet paper to chewing gum, this number isn't very big at all. But Krulwich points out that unlike oil, trees are a renewable resources. If you are feeling guilty about your tree product use, plant a tree now and then. If you don't have room, I do. I have a few acres that are only field. You buy the tree I will plant it for you and please stop hating the trees, they are our friends and when they fall, they do make a big sound even if there is no one there to listen.

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