I am not a scientist. I am a landscape designer. I thought I wasn’t an active environmentalist until I started to think about participating in this year’s Blog Action Day on Climate Change. Sure I talk about it, but if intent + action = activism then, I am an activist.
How do I as a landscape designer address climate change? I plan, plant and protect trees on a regular basis. I even write about trees here to hopefully spur readers to appreciate them, plant them, grow more of them and protect them.
How do trees affect climate change? Don’t take my word for it, according to American Forests:
Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary gas causing global climate change. Trees retain the carbon (C) from the CO2 molecule and release oxygen (O2) into the atmosphere. The carbon makes up half the dry weight of a tree.
Forests are the world’s second largest carbon reservoirs (oceans are the largest). Unlike oceans, however, we can grow new forests. Planting new trees remains one of the cheapest, most effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. One acre of forestland will sequester between 150 – 200 tons of CO2 in its first 40 years.
You don’t need a group, or a demonstration or anything other than yourself taking action. Plan to include trees in your garden. Even a small ornamental tree is great. Shade isn’t an impediment to gardening–it’s an opportunity, over 40% of garden plants prefer shade. Just plan on including some trees when you’re dreaming about what plants to add to your landscape. Trees are a good investment also, they add to your home’s value–smaller plants, no matter how rare, don’t do that.
Plant a tree in your garden–even better yet, plant a forest of them and help cool things down. Give trees the things they need–room to grow, plenty of water and lots of organic matter. When considering where to plant a tree make sure you know how tall and wide the tree will get before you decide where to plant it. Trees are plants for the long haul. How big will that little tree be in 5 years? 10? Will it grow fast or slow? Too many trees are cut down because they are too close to structures or their root systems make it difficult to plant anything else. Choose trees for the type of space you have and you will be rewarded for years to come.
Protect our old large trees from heavy construction–60% of damage to a trees root system comes from the first pass of heavy equipment over them. In my region, there is a battle going on right now. A local university wants to cut down the only unprotected swath of old growth forest in the metropolitan area that is now on its campus for ball fields, parking lots and ‘public benefit’. It seems to me that the public already benefits more from trees that have shaded and cooled them for more than 200 years, you can join the public outrage and protest here.
Look around you and see the large trees that are slated to be removed–question the cost to us when they are no longer cooling the earth. Many towns now protect heritage trees and have strict guidelines for tree removal. Fight to protect our trees because they are helping to protect us.