I love trees. I’m not afraid to admit it. I think they are one of earth’s most remarkable life forms. There are a number of reasons to think so, of course, such as their exquisite beauty. Each one is indeed like a poem. In all seasons, their beauty is a paradox – simple yet complex. Like snowflakes, they are as similar to each other as they are unique. From the polar circles to the equator, they come in an amazing variety of species, from the weeping willow to the mighty redwood, and have an incredible diversity even within species, like the wide array of apple trees.
Which brings us to another reason to love trees – some provide us with food. Trees can grow all manner of fruits and nuts – and not just for humans, obviously. For some animals, the trees are themselves food. The leaves, the blossoms, and even the woody trunks of trees – whether mature or decaying – provide a vital food source for countless animals and insects. Even their decay is beneficial for new tree and plant growth by enriching the soil.
Additionally, trees are also important in preventing soil erosion, which can lead to dust bowls and desertification. In some cases, soil erosion can choke off streams and rivers, hurting fisheries, leading to government subsidies in the form of compensation, and endangering some fish species, like salmon, who need these rivers and streams to reproduce.
Obviously, many other animals are more dependent on trees for their habitat than fish, though habit destruction is forcing even large mammals, like bears, to encroach on human settlements in search of food and placing some of them, like tigers, in danger of extinction. Not only do the forests and jungles of the world provide countless animals and insects with shelter and sustenance, they provide all of us with oxygen – a rather essential component of the global habitat.
As they have for centuries, trees also provide us with wood – good for all sorts of various uses, fire being prominent among them. Useful in such things as cooking and forging steel, even prehistoric man had fire. As a vital energy source, wood was the first resource the British exported from America. However, we have also used trees to construct homes and buildings and the furniture with which to fill them. We’ve fashioned various tools, instruments and vehicles like boats and wagons and the first cars from trees. We’ve even made them a prominent part of our Christmas season.
And we’ve processed trees into paper – in a variety of forms. Thus is one of the most noble plants on earth reduced to little more than a glorified fish wrapper with a complementary Maureen Dowd column, or as butt wipe in a toilet. To be fair, paper has certainly been put to more noble uses, such as a notebook for Albert Einstein or a napkin for representing taxation curves or for Bob Dylan’s smoking needs.
While the preceding may seem obvious to some, if not many, “tree hugger” is still considered an insult in some circles. While I certainly think their worth is axiomatic, there are still folks who under-appreciate these resplendent giants, or at least think it’s cool to scoff at them. Personally, I’m not sure what further lengths one plant could go to in order to earn some respect. I mean – Maureen Dowd! So the next time respect for trees is met with scoffing, perhaps it would be better to recall the more obvious contributions trees make to our lives. After all, no one likes a dirty bottom.
(Photography by Drae)