My Turn: Confessions of a tree hugger
By Nan Lund
My love affair with trees started young. In my hometown of 1,300 souls in North Dakota, there were other trees, but then there was The Tree. It was in our backyard and the only one on our block. Its branches were perfect for housing multiple kids who dared each other to use our Tarzan rope to swing to the ground, or to tell secrets, or to hide from little brothers. My dad had to rescue me from its uppermost spindly branches when I finally had the nerve to climb to the top of my world.
I’ve since come to appreciate trees in a more generic sense. I chose the condominium where I now live in Salisbury because of the trees surrounding it. I immediately was attracted to the buffer they provided from the noise of nearby roads and the welcoming shade on a hot day. They are stately. They remind me that there was a history here long before there were homes, swimming pools, golf courses, lawnmowers.
Several of our trees have been taken down. Some were diseased — they called for removal before they caused damage to adjoining properties. Some were destroying sidewalks and foundations … a reminder that they were here before those manmade artifacts. But now a tree in front of my house is threatened because it is messy. It houses squirrel nests that periodically drop debris onto sidewalks and patios. It drops leaves on lawns. It requires extra work to clean up after it, like a naughty child.
We know what trees do for us humans. They remove carbon dioxide from the air that we generate by driving our cars. They filter dust and pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide out of the air and hold them to be washed into the ground by rain. They cool our homes by up to 10 percent by providing shade and thus reducing energy costs. They reduce UVB exposure, the primary cause of skin cancer by about 50 percent. They prevent water pollution by reducing runoff of rainwater that carries pollutants into storm drains. Studies have even shown that a view of trees can help patients heal faster, with fewer complications.
How many bird songs would we hear without trees? They provide a place for nests and a refuge from their predators.
What is the value of one tree? Financially, realtors agree that mature trees increase property value; healthy mature trees and shrubs are reported to increase sale prices up to 7 percent. The impact on the overall economy has to be seen as a positive as it moderates climate and improves health. The emotional value is immeasurable.
I haven’t decided whether I will be moved to defend this tree with my body if the decision is to take it down. The image of tree huggers chained to trees to protect them from the saws has a real appeal but I’m much older and creakier in the joints these days. And maybe more resigned to the realization that the world doesn’t always make sense.
By the way, we also had The Rock in my backyard that was big enough for three kids to sit on or slide off. I never knew how lucky I was.
Nan Lund lives in Salisbury.
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