As an Iowan in the COVID-19 era living in the most restricted part of the state, I’ve heard so many people talk about how fortunate they are to live in an area where we can get outside for a dose of sunshine and fresh air. Naturally trees are a big part of our walks or our views from inside apartments or homes. Some trees stand out more than others, and they are usually large, mature trees that provide shade, food and home for squirrels, habitat for birds and pollinators, and for us humans, often an emotional connection.
“I’ll chain myself to that tree before I let it be cut down,” commented a neighborhood resident when a beloved street tree was threatened. Her attachment comes from the simple act of walking past it and observing its beauty and all of the critters who call it home. Understandably, after tornadoes or hurricanes, trees are often mentioned early in the recovery process as a point of great loss.
It is tough to social distance and not gather in large groups. We’ve all had to get creative with celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, replacing group plantings with webinars and tree hugging social media campaigns. Some households will be planting in their backyards or other special spots. We are all planning to invest in more trees and nearby nature. Regardless of economics, every neighborhood deserves beautiful trees lining the streets and nearby nature in parks and public spaces.
Research backs up the fact that even views of trees encourage faster healing and improves learning for students. In this era, we need to keep a six-foot gap between us and other human beings. While we can’t hug each other, we can still hug a tree, and those tree hugs have economic benefits. Research by the U.S. Forest Service estimates that we could save up to $11.7 billion annually if we humans spend more time outdoors in close proximity to our homes.
We are certainly counting our blessings as the grass turns green, trees leaf out and flowers bloom. Let’s also count our trees and all the beauty and life they bring to each of us and the Earth. Keep in mind that in every city and town, we have spaces available to plant trees along our streets. In small towns, we’ve lost major trees from storms and the emerald ash borer, leading to far less green sheltering canopy.
Let’s work harder to preserve large, mature trees for all the shade they provide and life they support. Major planting initiatives must go on, and Trees Forever will continue to encourage more tree planting far into the future with partners and volunteers.
Remember we can also count on our trees to connect us to the world around us, provide life giving oxygen, as well as shade and hold our soils in place along streams and rivers. We can count on our trees to give us emotional and spiritual renewal in these difficult times. We can count on our trees to be living memorials for those we have lost and those we wish to honor. In a time where we can’t be with each other, please count on a tree.