Bring Back Arbor Day!

Today’s blog is a departure from my usual fare. One of Dr. Kris’s alter-egos, Miss Grumpypants, asked me if I would run a public service announcement. Fearing her wrath if I didn’t, I meekly acquiesced but must admit that she makes some excellent points. It’s a gloomy Friday anyway and I myself wanted a break from my usual market squawk. So, in an eco-friendly spirit, I turn today’s blog over to Miss Grumpypants.

If there’s one thing that really gets my goat is environmental hypocrites–you know, those holier than thou folk who claim to recycle their coke cans while housing a garage full of gas-guzzling, greenhouse gas emitting SUVs. Celebrities are some of the worst offenders. They say they have gone green but that doesn’t stop them from boarding their private jets to have lunch a thousand miles away with one of their pals. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but not by much, and pardon me for venting. But what I really don’t understand is how the Greenies haven’t yet embraced Arbor Day. They’re all over Earth Day but yet Arbor Day, the mother of all Green holidays, is snubbed for some inexplicable reason. I mean, if you’re interested in immediately decreasing global warming, reducing if not nearly eliminating world hunger while at the same time beautifying the planet why wouldn’t you be embracing Arbor Day with open arms? Why indeed! After you see the facts I’m about to present, you’ll wonder why Arbor Day isn’t right up there with Christmas or Thanksgiving because if we followed the tenets of the holiday we’d be blessed with cleaner air, a reduction in global warming, an abundance of food, and a more beautiful planet. Doesn’t this sound like the spirit of Christmas and Thanksgiving rolled into one so how can you not embrace it?

Arbor Day: A brief background
Arbor Day was the brainchild of Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraska journalist and politician, who felt that Nebraska’s wind-swept landscape and economy would benefit from a wide-scale planting of trees. Because of Morton’s political influence (he was Secretary of Agriculture under Grover Cleveland) he was able to convince the Nebraska board of agriculture to set aside a special day dedicated to tree planting and increasing awareness on the importance of trees. Nebraska’s first Arbor Day was born on April 10, 1872 and was an incredible success with more than a million trees planted. A second Arbor day took place in 1884 after which the Nebraska legislature made it an annual holiday. Today, Arbor Day is celebrated in all 50 states, but the dates vary from state-to-state. Most state Arbor Days are held at the end of April or beginning of May. California and a few southern states hold theirs earlier and Hawaii’s is in November. At the Federal level, the last Friday in April is proclaimed to be National Arbor Day.

Why planting a tree is good for you and the planet
Trees are one of the very best ways to combat the effects of global warming because they absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), a key greenhouse gas emitted by our gas-guzzling SUVs and power plants, before it has a chance to reach the upper atmosphere where it traps in heat. While all living plant matter absorbs CO2, trees are the most efficient because of their larger size and extensive root systems. During its lifetime, a single tree will absorb approximately one ton of CO2. Some trees are better than others at CO2 absorption, but scientists agree that planting any tree that’s climate appropriate will help offset the rise in global warming. In addition, trees provide other health, economic, and aesthetic benefits:

1. Because of photosynthesis, trees not only absorb CO2, but purify the air by emitting oxygen which is what we humans need to breathe. We’ve all heard about the continuing destruction of the Amazon rain forest which scientists refer to as the lungs of the planet. If the rain forest is totally destroyed (and I hope we can prevent that from happening), the earth will literally be gasping for breath but by planting our own trees, we might be able to replace one giant lung with many smaller ones. I don’t know if this would work but it certainly can’t hurt.
2. Trees block cold winter winds and provide cooling summer shade, both of which help lower home heating and cooling costs. Have you ever noticed the difference in temperature between the sunny side of the street and the shady side? This is called the urban heat island effect, and it can be significantly reduced by planting trees in heavily concreted urban areas.
3. Their root systems protect soil from erosion and help to clean ground water.
4. They provide shelter for our furry and feathery friends, and add grace and beauty to our communities which increases property values.
5. They provide an indirect source of recreation: a place to hang your hammock or swing your swing. And how can you build a tree-house without a tree?

I’m telling ‘ya, what’s not to love?

Where to plant trees
You can plant them anywhere: around your home or property; in your community such as parks, schools, churches, downtown areas, concrete parking lots, around stadiums; and in our local, state, and national forests. The latter option is a good one for urban apartment dwellers with limited or no balcony space.

What else can I do?
Ever hear of a Victory Garden? These were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens grown at home to help the war effort during WWI & II. Did it work? Oh, yeah. Victory Gardens were grown by nearly 20 million Americans during WWII and accounted for up to 40% of the produce grown annually. Forty percent! If we could all pitch in and do something like that today, we could probably put an end to hunger in America if not make a significant dent in the current world food crisis, especially if we can convince other countries to follow suit.

A friend of mine with a small backyard has several large fruit trees that not only provide cooling shade in the summer but so much fruit that she’s able to supply a local homeless shelter with citrus for months. Growing up in the Midwest, our family always had a large vegetable garden and let me tell you that there’s nothing better than eating a sun-ripened tomato plucked right off the vine or freshly picked buttery green beans. Besides being fun for the whole family, growing your own fruits and vegetables is much cheaper, tastier, and healthier than buying stuff from the grocery store that has been sitting around for weeks or even months. If you have a garden and find yourself with too many vegetables, donate them to charity or have your kids operate an after-school fruit and vegetable stand. It’s a fun way for them to earn money while learning the basics of entrepreneurship. Also, you can save significantly on flowers if you grow your own. I had two dozen rose bushes plus pots of cymbidium orchids around my last house and never wanted for fresh cut flowers. Plus, the flowers enhanced the look of my yard. And yes, I did have a Victory Garden which I called a garden. Besides white peaches and nectarines, I grew asparagus (the only patch in Southern California that I knew of), herbs, tomatoes, peppers, beans, and pumpkins that vined their way down my back slope. Different varieties of grapes twined over my back fence and provided the most exquisitely delicious fruit–like nothing you’d ever get in the store or even the farmer’s market. Yum-oh! (Grapes are so easy to grow that if you don’t watch it, they’ll take over everything.)

This concludes my brief public service announcement. I hope you can see that planting trees and other edibles is a very cost-effective way of not only benefiting the earth but us as well. So please mark Arbor Day on your calendar and let’s give the holiday the respect that its due, but you don’t have to wait for the next Arbor Day to plant a tree or a garden. So indulge your green thumb. Let’s go green by planting green. We can save the planet, one tree at a time.

For further information on tree planting and global warming, go the the Arbor Day Foundation website:

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