Climate Change Connections: Trees

Think about how important trees are to the earth and environment.


“Keep close to nature’s heart.” —John Muir

As a young lad, John Muir was in a welding accident, and lost his eyesight. As he lay in his bed resting for weeks on end, which was a typical cure-all for a lot of ailments at that time, he said that if he ever got his eyesight back, he was going to walk this country and let nature consume him. His eyesight returned, and he began his walk, which is now part of the Appalachian Trail.

Muir felt compelled after his long walks across the country to appeal to President Theodore Roosevelt to preserve vast amounts of land. Roosevelt was persuaded. This fueled the drive to create national parks, and so Muir is often called the father of the national parks.

Muir’s love of nature was captured in his writings, especially his love of all things forest, the trees and the wilderness captivating his heart.

It is noteworthy that some of the most alarming facts about climate change have to do with trees. Deforestation is happening at an alarming rate. In 2019 alone, we lost 29 million acres of tree cover — that is equal to a soccer field of trees every six seconds. Deforestation is still going on, even in this day and age when we are so aware of climate change, and in spite of knowing how essential trees are to the planet’s well-being.

Here is a brief list of what trees do for us:

  • By absorbing carbon dioxide, trees help combat climate change.
  • Trees provide shade, and act as windbreaks.
  • Trees produce evaporation, which is the process of getting water from the roots to the leaves and then vapor, causing cooling of the effects of concrete in our cities.
  • Trees help regulate temperature extremes.
  • Mature trees protect against flooding by stabilizing the soil and absorbing water.
  • Tree roots filter chemicals and other pollutants that end up in lakes, streams, rivers, and coastal ponds.
  • Trees provide a habitat for all kinds of creatures, especially in the rainforest, where they are housing millions of species that protect us from disease.
  • Trees provide material for shelter.
  • Trees give off oxygen we need to breathe.
  • Trees provide food to us and wildlife.
  • Trees affect society by lowering stress, lowering blood pressure, and building a stronger immune system.
  • Trees increase the value of a property.

Our relationship with trees goes back to ancient times and runs to the present, and it has been strongly represented in literature, religions, art, rituals, and in many other ways. It is a global ponderance, alluring to humanity and animals alike.

Let’s look at examples of this:

“Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs, from my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut trees, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver … As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.” —Anne Frank, “The Diary of a Young Girl”

“In the Celtic religions, most trees were sacred, but above all, the oak, hawthorn, and ash. In fact, the central place of the oak tree to the Celts was apparently largely due to its usefulness: in building, providing acorns, Celts used it to feed pigs, and creating material from its bark. As a result, it was elevated to a sacred cultural position — it was even believed to cry when cut down or harmed. Today’s celebration of Christmas incorporated older traditions of tree worship: the popular Christmas tree is believed to have originated in various winter solstice traditions … by taking an evergreen tree indoors.” TiME (This is My Earth)

Then there are the majestic baobabs in the African savanna. They tower above the giraffes and elephants. One species is 200 million years old, and has a life expectancy of 1,000 years. An individual tree has its own ecosystem, providing shelter, food, and water to many forms of life, from microorganisms to elephants. They have become part of the folklore of Africa, Madagascar, and Australia.

Here are some suggestions to help us continue this tradition of keeping close to nature’s heart, and, in this case, close to the trees:

  • Give a tree as a wedding present — or two of them, to symbolize the couple.
  • Give a sapling to a newborn baby as a gift. Suggest to the family that they take a picture each year on the child’s birthday, as the tree and the child grow with each other.
  • Create your own small forest — plant a tree for each child born in your family.
  • Go to Polly Hill Arboretum in West Tisbury and go on a tour, check out the visitor center, take a picnic and soak in the forest, donate, or go to the plant sale in the summer and get a tree. Open year-round. Call them at 508-693-9426.

If you have information or ideas on climate change, reach out to Doris Ward at



  1. A good start to saving trees would be to outlaw electric vehicles. Mining for these batteries is ruining vast areas of the world including rainforests. You cannot consider yourself an environmentalist and drive an EV. You really cannot consider yourself a moral person either considering that the mining for the minerals that constitute lithium batteries is mainly carried out by African slaves and often child slaves. Americans need to educate themselves on these atrocities.

  2. The mining, according to the NPR piece you linked, also provides the rechargeable batteries for smartphones and computers. How did you write your comment if not with a computer? We have to come up with better, more just solutions. Meanwhile, there is no justice for the 8 million people a year who die as the result of breathing air polluted by the burning of fossil fuels.

  3. Great story!!!! Trees are so magical and important and if you leave them alone they will reproduce and fight back to save our ecosystem and our lives. Go for a walk and enjoy these giants!!!!

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