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What's Up Magazine

Have You Hugged 
a Tree Today?

Apr 03, 2014 03:55PM ● By Cate Reynolds
The earth needs trees. Animals need trees. People need trees. (In fact, the earth probably needs trees a lot more than it needs people.) Planting, saving, and nurturing trees is one of the ways humans can give back to nature, from which we take so much.

According to Tree People, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring, engaging and supporting people to take responsibility for the urban environment by making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable, trees supply a forest full of benefits.

Though some holdouts may argue, most scientists agree that global warming has arrived for real. Our buddies the trees help combat that greenhouse effect. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, Tree People contend, an acre of mature trees absorbs the same amount of CO2 as that produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles. While trees do this, they clean the air by absorbing odors and pollutants. In exchange, they provide oxygen. That same acre of trees supplies enough oxygen a year to sustain 18 people. Talk about an important contribution.

Trees also cool the earth. The proliferation of heat-producing pavement and roads, in lieu of forests, has caused the average temperature in the Los Angeles area to rise 6 degrees in the last 50 years. On the flipside, strategically placing trees around our homes can cut summer air-conditioning needs by as much as 50 percent.

Trees are also critical in reducing runoff by breaking rainfall and allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth. This prevents stormwater from carrying pollutants to the ocean. When mulched, trees act like a sponge that filters this water naturally and uses it to recharge groundwater supplies. This action also prevents soil erosion.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Trees reduce UV-B exposure by as much as 50 percent. Leafy school campuses, playgrounds, and parks provide relaxation and protection for children and adults alike.

Let’s not forget that trees provide food. An apple tree can yield up to 15 to 20 bushels of fruit per year and can be planted even on a tiny, urban plot. And aside from feeding us, birds and wildlife also share the bounty.

According to the enthusiasts at Tree People (keep in mind these are their assertions), trees can also heal and even reduce violence. Studies have shown that patients with views of trees out their windows heal faster and with less complications, and children with ADHD show fewer symptoms when they have access to nature. Studies have also shown, they contend, that neighborhoods that are barren have shown to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home. Trees and Landscaping reduce the level of fear.

Last but not least is the economic benefit of trees. The beauty of a well-planted property and its surrounding street and neighborhood may raise property values by as much as 15 percent. Leafy landscaping in business districts may also provides an economic boost. And of course there is still the most obvious benefit: Trees provide wood. Hard to imagine what we’d do without that product.

No wonder so many ancient cultures worshipped trees. We may not want to go that far, but we can certainly provide some metaphorical hugs as we value and protect these priceless assets. —Sarah Hagerty