Saturday, February 4, 2012

I found myself within spitting distance of my 65th birthday and for the first time or so it seemed, not able to believe in anything; not good government, not organized religion, not protest marches, not free market economies, not silent auctions, not the girl scouts or the apocalypse. It makes it a little tough to get out of bed in the morning. I spent 65 years getting up for some good reason or other and they had all deserted me. Marched right out of my life.

It all came tumbling down over a little dustup in a small library in the Yucatan. In this scale model of the larger world, I learned close up that the truth is fragile, public opinion is temporary and a hastily contrived perception satisfies most casual observers and by the way, most people are casual observers.
Extrapolate this little political fracas to the larger world of drones and assassinations, global warming and Planned Parenthood and you can pretty much guess my numb terror. How in the world could someone, anyone believe or verify anything. And so the only place for my thinking to go was the, I believe nothing place.

This did not solve my problem about getting out of bed in the morning or afternoon, or at all….I needed a cause, a skill, a razón de ser. Dogs only work for so long and then, being the kind spirits that they are, they decide that if sleep is what the lady wants, we’ll stay right here and sleep too, never mind that walk.
The first call to action came from the parrots. Many mornings a flotilla of parrots careens through my neighborhood and stops in the ceiba tree in my backyard to fuss. It sounds like complaint, of course it could be the news of the day. Without that tree, I would not have this, vocal and much needed, early morning call to action. Their noisiness certainly lends quality to my life, I get up. But a larger question invades my sleepy mind. How would those guys get from place to place without trees to make a path with rest stops. They are terrible fliers. They look like they might fall to the ground in a loud mess at any moment. I doubt they would make it across town, never mind that, how would we get from place to place without trees along the way. After all we breathe in air every seven seconds or so, last I counted, and we need trees to put oxygen into that air. Without it we are frankly dead.

So those two somewhat related thoughts got me from horizontal to vertical. Maybe here is a non-political- something to do that is; good for the world, good for me, and doesn’t lead to the inevitable disappointment of the naïve. Trees……
I point my pajama clad sadness to the computer, with a cup of coffee, (now declared good for you) and look it up. Naturally the internet delivers a handy list of fast facts. I keep searching to verify them, but they are repeated ad nauseum by many tree sites, leaving me wondering who originated them and how “true” they are. Don’t forget I am a newly minted cynic. But here they are with a promise that I will dig deeper in future.

In one year an acre of trees can absorb as much carbon as is produced by a car driven 8,700 miles. Hey handy way to reduce your carbon footprint…plant an acre of trees and drive 8, 500 miles that year…net gain. Other sites give much more generous mileage.

Shade and shelter of trees reduce heating and cooling costs an estimated 2.1 billion dollars. Wonder how they figured that one out.

One acre of trees creates sufficient oxygen for a year for 18 people. Do you know 18 people you want to put on virtual life support? The self-same acre removes 2.6 tons of CO2. And the shade from said trees can drop the temperature as much as 20 degrees…that would be Fahrenheit, I think. It takes ten years for a tree to reach its peak of doing all of the above….

Trees also cut noise pollution, stabilize soil erosion, improve water quality and provide shelter for wild life.

Trees take 90% of their nutrition from the atmosphere and only 10% from the soil. Think for a minute what a miracle of nature that is. What a gift. But there is more. Trees do not ever, yes never, die from old age. They are the longest living organisms on earth. They are only killed by insects, disease or PEOPLE…..

Trees can induce rainfall and cool the land. In one day one large tree can lift up 100 gallons of water out of the ground and discharge it into the air, an acre of maples, 20,000 gallons in one day. Needless to say this has an enormous effect how peacefully water moves around our planet. An as of 2011, there are 81.5 million acres ( other sources say 1.4 billion acres) of trees in the Amazon Basin. Do the math. It is stunning. Some people estimate that this represents ½ of the planets trees and 20% of our oxygen. Certainly it forms some of our weather patterns. There are estimates that we are losing 1 and ½ acres of the rainforest every second and that by 2030 55% of the Amazon Basin rainforest will be gone. This is a huge topic for another day, but it rivals in my mind the melting ice as a harbinger for dramatically different conditions on earth. (Oh yea and it is definitely political.)

Back to happier facts. Trees have been shown to have a psychological benefit reducing both blood pressure and muscle tension when people are shown or placed in a tree environment. There is evidence that hospital patients recover faster and prisoners are healthier when they can see trees from their confinement. Police believe that adding trees to a community reduces crime.

Finally, even when a tree succumbs to disease insects or human activity, it continues its nurturing ways. At the very least it replenishes the soil as it decays. But otherwise, it becomes your house, your chair, your casket, your violin. That’s some last act.


“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” Anonymous

There you have it. I have my reason to be; trees and a hero, Johnny Appleseed, my guides, the parrots. I can plan and plant trees, one by one, no politics, no organization, no fundraising needed. And it will work for a while, until I know too much and study too much and want to crowd source funds to save the rainforest or something similar and then the politics begin again, but for today a kind of beautiful simplicity prevails. I think I will enjoy it.

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”
Chinese Proverb

PS. This was written yesterday. Today I am happy to say that The Komen Foundation capitulated in one day and restored funding to Planned Parenthood, based on the force of public outrage, pressure and persuasion. Way to go everyone who lifted a finger and noted their disgust. This lifts my spirits about the power of the everyday right thinking person to see the truth of a political situation and reject it.
The future will be full of the unruly wonderfulness of flash mobs and crowd sourcing and we are going to use it for the benefit of all. Come on people, we do have a voice. (Don’t forget boycotting, that works too.)

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