There have been some opinions in the news lately about the negative impacts of tree planting, but let’s apply some critical thinking.
In Bruce and Grey Counties, we live in rural communities. We have land all around us. Most of that land was originally forested and was de-forested to make way for farms, factories, roads, and residences. We need to try, wherever we have the space, to replace the lost forests that worked their lifetimes to sequester carbon.
Lawns, poorly drained farmland, fields devoted only to hay crops, buffer strips along creeks, streams and rivers, school yards, municipal parks–these are all places ideal for replacing tree canopy.
Forget the argument that trees simply rot when they die and release their stored carbon. That’s like saying we may as well shoot ourselves now because we’ll eventually die and our lives will have been for nothing. Horse hooey.
Much of a tree’s sequestered carbon will be in the main trunk which can be milled into lumber for construction, furniture, and fencing. Carbon is also sequestered in the root system, under the soil. Leaves, bark, and twigs that fall to the ground each year become part of the soil. Branches from a dead tree decay slowly until they become part of the soil. Yes, a small part of the stored carbon is given back into the atmosphere, but the majority stays locked in the timber or in the ground where the process of converting it to fossil fuel begins. Dig out a shovel full of wet earth from a forest and you’ll notice an oil slick on the water that collects in the hole. That’s sequestered carbon that you’ve just disturbed, providing a vector for it to re-enter the atmosphere.
Yes, trees require some care, especially in the early years. But so does everything that lives. Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority provides tree seedlings at an incredible bargain. $1 to $1.50 per seedling, depending on species. Minimum order is 50 per species and orders have to be in by March 21st. If 50 is too many, so what. Give some to your friends and neighbours.
The simplest thing we can do to start repaying our individual carbon debt is to plant trees. Not many of us can afford to set aside the 10 acres needed to offset a lifetime of carbon burning, but 5 or 10 on the lawn, a few hundred along our street, a few thousand in local parks – by the time our kids have grown up we’ll have done a lot to help them out, not only by replacing lost tree canopy, but also by enhancing biodiversity, improving carbon sequestering, and generating some good old oxygen pumped into the air for free. I can’t think of a better way to invest in the future.
As I write this, I look out the window at the ice and snow and grey skies. It definitely feels like the dead of winter. However, spring is just around the corner, and the thought of tree planting puts a smile on my face. I hope it does the same for you. Here is the SVCA web address to order trees: https://www.svca.on.ca/downloads/2020_Tree_Purchase_Form.pdf