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Tree appreciation returns to forefront here, across nation

Eye on the Environment


By: Frances Lambert


Trees are having their moment.

The city of Cleveland, as reported recently in the News Hour, is planting them on a massive scale, by the tens of thousands each year.

They are to provide more canopy cover to benefit all residents, not only those in affluent white neighborhoods, and decrease the heat island effect which plagues modern cities under climate change.

Heat stress, the city has documented, is 20 percent higher in sections with few trees than in its “treed” areas.

The city of Johnson City dedicated a new, neighborhood arboretum in its Tree Streets section.

More than 80 different, mature trees comprise the current, level-2 certification core, which residents hope to expand.

In the (South Side) elementary school at the center of the neighborhood, as the principal stated at the ceremony, the children walk hallways named after trees. Exploring their seasonal characteristics outdoors, she said, and learning about their benefits to well-being in daily life, can be an active part of students’ learning environment.

In this teaching endeavor, the school can find an example at East Tennessee State University, founded in 1911 as a Normal School for teacher training.

The yearly bulletins from that time, which one finds in the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services’ library, show great attention being given to beautifying the grounds, for which “more than 3,500 trees and shrubs were planted,” and to teachers-in-training passing on an appreciation of the natural environment to their pupils.

They were to “inculcate in young pupils … observation and study of plant life,” to “learn the names of common flowers and where and how they grow and … learn to recognize the most common trees, their foliage and the fruit if it can be found.”

Trees’ ability to vacuum carbon from the atmosphere and lock it away in wood is among main reasons for many large-scale planting efforts today. Businesses, governments, cities and private individuals are seeking trees’ help in fighting climate change.

Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos last year committed some $10 billion to an “Earth Fund,” largely toward tree planting.

An article in “Science” described a study by researchers at the US Forest Service which finds our national forests “understocked”; adding enough new trees – several billion more each year – for “fully stocking” them would enable these forests to remove from the atmosphere nearly a fifth of our annual carbon emissions.

In many ways and for many reasons, trees are immensely valuable and at the heart of good things almost everywhere.