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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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14 responses to “Our Need for Trees”

  1. Jane bunttHobson says:

    Well written Paul!

  2. Erin says:

    I’m not crying, you’re crying

  3. Patricia Wright says:

    I love this, Paul, what a great perspective.

  4. Patricia says:

    Extremely thought provoking. I will share with my grandchildren.
    Thank you

  5. Mike ORourke says:

    Norman Vincent Peale was asked the question If you knew you were going to die tomorrow what would you do today? He said ” I’d plant a tree”

  6. Tom Peters says:

    Hey Paul Tom from CT. Once again a great blog- your always providing a thought provoking quote. I always try to plant at least one tree a year. At my previous property I added about 30 over a 12 year period. My favorite ended up being a redwood. The first spring after I left I returned, partially because of curiosity and part missing my old yard. My 35 foot redwood had been cut down!! I suspect it was because the owner saw an “evergreen” trees needles that had turned brown and fallen off and figured it died. Oh well, so much for something for future generations. The happy part of this story is I moved to a property with a 100′ redwood, which sold me on the property. Oh yeah, there was a house there too. I have continued my tree planting ways also – 12 in 4 years.

    • Paul James says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Tom. And thanks for planting so many trees. Glad you have another redwood — such a great tree!

  7. Dale Jeffers says:

    At 81 yrs, I have known individuals with the short-sighted attitude you describe, caring naught for their own descendants and future generations.