Our Need for Trees
By Paul James
I’ve always chuckled a bit when people my age – and often considerably older – ask me which shade tree they should plant, knowing it’ll probably be at least a decade or more before the tree will cast significant shade. Then the other night, while watching television, I heard a line that gave me the clarity I lacked: A society grows stronger when old people plant trees, the shade of which they’ll never sit in.
There are lots of reasons to plant trees. They fill the air with life-sustaining oxygen, sequester carbon, cool our houses and surrounding environment, provide food and nesting sites for wildlife, increase the value of our homes, even improve our quality of life.
“A society grows stronger when old people plant trees, the shade of which they’ll never sit in.”
And those are all great reasons, singly and collectively. But they pale in comparison to the much nobler and selfless reason alluded to in the quote above, and in this one written well over 2,000 years ago by the Roman poet Statius: We plant trees not for ourselves, but for future generations.
So while it’s true that trees have enormous aesthetic and environmental attributes, I believe the two most compelling reasons to plant them are for the shade we’ll never sit in, and for the benefit of those we’ll likely never know.
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