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  • Writer's pictureLeslie Ryan

The Forest and Two Trees

Three environmental organizations are collaborating on a Trillion Trees program to fund the planting of one trillion trees by 2050. Half the trees that were once on the planet are now gone, and we are still losing ten billion each year to logging, agriculture, fire and other human activities.

The focus of the Trillion Trees project is large scale (33 billion trees planted each year!) protection and restoration of the world’s forests. Big numbers are seductive. The Nature Conservancy plans to plant one billion trees, a number matched by Pakistan’s Billion Tree Tsunami and the United Nation’s “Plant for the Planet” Billion Tree Campaign. Cities and communities have established local goals, such as New York City’s MillionTreesNYC and my own community’s most modest plan to plant 1,001 trees in 5 years. I’ve planted my own strawberry guava and pomegranate, so there are only 999 to go.

Much is at stake in programs like these. Trees are food and shelter for many of the more-than-human animal others on the planet. Forest habitat is complex, with soil, plant, and animal each depending on others for survival. The Salmon Forest documentary film beautifully illustrates this interdependency. Forest guru Chris Maser has researched the symbiotic relationship between the vole, the truffle, and the Douglas-fir tree, and how the fungus feeds the vole, the vole distributes the beneficial fungus across the forest, and the tree provides the shelter needed by the vole.

Trees create a different sort of habitat for humans. We live in houses built of 2x4s and siding, the “old bodies” of ancient forests, as poet Gary Snyder wrote in The Practice of the Wild. The shade and protection of urban forest canopies make cities livable by cooling streets and buildings. A summer walk, rather than drive, to the store is pleasurable along shaded sidewalks and a slog in the heat.

Trees do much for us and for the health and well-being of the earth. Forests, whether urban or the size of the Amazon basin, absorb carbon from the atmosphere and reduce the effects of climate change. The leaves and roots trap and filter pollutants, cleaning the air and water. We are as dependent on trees as the vole and the truffle is.


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