By Cori Nicole Wamsley Image courtesy of bossfight.co
The forests of the world provide many benefits for living things. Humans rely on wood from these forests to develop products from paper to furniture. We, as well as animals, bugs, fungi, and many other organisms need trees for our homes, whether we live in them, build from them, or burn them for warmth. And trees emit oxygen, which is essential for life on Earth. Trees help clean the air and purify water, while reducing our energy use/costs and giving us something beautiful to contemplate. Many of these are obvious, but let’s take a closer look at what we will lose if we continue to harvest lumber at the current rate.
If you’re outside on a hot summer day, and you have the chance, you’ll probably look for a tree to rest under. We all know that it’s cooler in the shade, and trees can provide plenty of that. In the shade of a tree, you are protected from the sun’s harmful rays, and you likely sweat less, meaning that you drop your risk of dehydration. Parks and playgrounds filled with trees are great places to play, run, and relax, but take away the trees, and you have a hotter, less refreshing place to hang out.
Trees benefit the environment as well. They prevent soil erosion thanks to their networks of thick, far-reaching roots. They improve the water quality of rivers and streams because they filter the water they absorb through their roots. And they clean the air, as well. Trees absorb pollutants like CO2, a major contributor to climate change.
Humans glean psychological effect from nature as well: trees and other natural objects calm and sooth us. People feel peaceful in nature, which is why so many people head to the mountains, a quiet cabin in the woods, or a beach to reconnect with themselves. Trees just make us feel better. Neighborhoods with more trees see less crime, and people recovering from injuries heal faster when they can look outside their windows. Trees also muffle sound, naturally reducing the noise of cars nearby.
Just as trees can shade our outdoor spaces, trees planted near buildings help keep them cooler, as well. Of course, keeping the building cooler in the summer means lower energy use and costs: both an environmental and an economic win! Trees beautify neighborhoods and stores, increasing the value of homes and encouraging people to linger in shopping vicinities. Their beauty brings joy to people; there is no mistaking it.
With all these benefits, you would think that humans would be cautious about maintaining our forests. So what’s happening?
Land is necessary for residential and commercial purposes. We need land to build housing and stores, farms and schools, doctor’s offices and attractions. Humans in industrialized areas need a lot of things, and they may think that trees aren’t one of them.
About 30% of the Earth is covered in forests, but many millions of acres are lost every year to our modern demands for products, space, and money. A growing population doesn’t help matters.
Some small things can help: recycle paper and use recycled paper products or avoid using paper altogether. For a bigger impact, though, we need to protect the forests we have left by considering solutions that use land already cleared, while planting additional trees to help bolster our current forests.