Climate Corner: Make friends with a tree

Feb 19, 2022

Nenna Davis

Shel Silverstein wrote a book called “The Giving Tree” that I would read to my son when he was a wee child. The basic premise of the book is how trees are our friend. For many, trees have provided so much joy for climbing, or a swing or even a treehouse. When I was a child, I remember a particular maple tree in my grandmother’s yard that I considered my summer friend. On lazy summer afternoons it provided a place of solitude and shelter from the hot sun. I loved to lay under the tree and watch the dappled sunlight filter through the leaves. This tree gave me so much pleasure. Trees have always been a part of my life. My mother taught me to appreciate trees for their beauty.

As we continue to fell these beautiful creations, we are adversely affecting our climate. We have spent a great deal of effort in using trees for everything from a source of heat to furniture to housing while not considering the impact of the barren land left behind. This deforestation has had devastating impacts on the wildlife as well as climate. Deforestation can be a planned occurrence like harvesting of timber or felling trees because of insect/disease infestations or from a natural catastrophe such as a wildfire. Quickly responding to such occurrences can help with increased redevelopment of local flora as well as fauna.

Reforestation, or the natural or intentional replacement of the flora of the woodlands and forests is part of the response to these changes that cause climate change.

The Paris Agreement is asking governments around the world to commit to low-carbon emissions. One method is to mitigate carbon emission by reforestation. You may wonder how this will help with climate change. As I have shared before one of the biggest culprits to climate change is carbon emissions. Therefore, if we have remedies to help us with air quality, we may be able to help ourselves remedy climate change.

Around 2000 The Jane Goodall institute started what they titled the Million Tree Project in the Inner Mongolia region of China. China was able to use about 24 million hectares of forest to “offset 20% of Chinese fossil fuel emissions in 2000 and by 2012 had offset the carbon emissions by 33%.” (NASA). The trees become a carbon sink, an area where the carbon from our atmosphere is used and stored by the trees. With the recent fire in the Amazon, the reforestation of these forests would lead to even more absorption of carbon.

The concept of managing forests is not new, but could be a great help in our fight against carbon emissions. The target of the United Nations Strategic Plan for forests is “to increase forest area by 3% by 2030.” Even though reforestation efforts have been established, the goal set is pretty rigorous and most likely will not be achieved in the timeline planned. One of the keys to the reforestation process of forest management is not to only replace the trees, but to provide the same biodiversity that existed before deforestation. Thus, forest management needs to include not only the trees but other flora indigenous to the area.

In 2020 the World Economic Forum, created a Trillion Tree Campaign to plant 1 trillion trees across the globe. These trees would be tailored to the location and the environment. We still have a lot to do.

So, I ask myself what does this mean to me? Well, I can plant trees, most certainly not a forest. But we all can plant trees. Consider planting a tree this Arbor Day, April, 8 or Earth Day, April 22. Consider planting a tree to commemorate your birthday or anniversary. Even consider planting a tree when your child is born, you can watch it grow together. Another way to help conserve wood products and even help with recycling would be to use planks made of recycled plastics to replace your decking or other wooden repairs.

As for the tree in my grandmother’s backyard — When I grew up and visited it later, it seemed smaller than I had remembered it, but it did still provide the same joy it had given me as a child. Eventually it was taken down because the shade, which I had loved as a child, was detrimental to the roof of the house. My tree had met the same end as “The Giving Tree.”


Nenna Davis has a bachelor’s degree in zoology/botany, and a master’s degree in organizational communication.