OK. I admit this is a really random post. But, it is something that has been on my mind after I read an article which basically said that we only see value in trees when they are chopped down. It was a dig at capitalist-value and the damage on the environment, but it did get me thinking.
Recently, I have noticed I have been taking lots of photographs of trees, and really enjoying woodland walks. I know I am not alone in this. I have joked with friends, that I am just becoming ‘one of those people obsessed with trees’, but how often do you just stop. And look.
I find trees fascinating because they withstand time far longer than any living thing on the planet. OK, I am exaggerating here, but you get my point. They can a live a long time. Take the Oak tree for instance. Some will live 50-60 years (OK, so not quite outliving us), but others will survive for 150 years or more!! Just imagine the things they have seen!! I suppose I do get a bit deep and meaningful here, as the same can be said for antique mirrors. Seriously, just think how many people have looked at their reflection in a mirror that has been handing around for a few decades or more. If only we could have a snap shot of those moments over time. Well, the same can be said for trees and woodlands. Some of our oldest trees have been around for a century or more. They have seen families grow up, the landscape change, and have been privy to people memories. Picnics in the woods, people seeking shelter in the rain, seeing farmers land and local infrastructure change. The trees have remained the constant – provided they were not in the way of course (lets not get political here….).
Let’s just take a moment to reflect on the value of trees. Yes, there is a commercial value for the material they can produce. It is pretty amazing that trees can produce such a broad range of materials; beyond timber frames for buildings, and paper for books. They are a source of foods such as fruit and maple syrup. Did you know that you can extract oil from the bark of birch trees which is antiseptic? Pretty amazing stuff.
But, what about non-commercial value?
At a young age, I learnt that plant life, trees included, were vital for purifying oxygen. They clean the air. They generate oxygen through the process of photosynthesis – so we need them to breathe. I think that is a major value proposition. But what else?
- stabilise the soil (they are our biggest plants after all). This helps to produce conditions which support wildlife populations.
- are a big player in role of pollination- think of the bees!!
- prevent soil erosion with their natural underpinning root system (ok, they can damage walls too, but lets focus on the positives).
- shield us from noise pollution (unless you get a Woodpecker!!)
- block ultraviolet rays – giving us shade. This might not seem like a big one, but they can be significant in helping someone with heatstroke!
- create shelter from the wind and rain
- dispel heat from humid areas through a kind of heat-evaporation process! How cool is that! (I know, awful joke…..)
- are natures giant sponges! They soak up flood waters, use it to grow and then the excess evaporates up to the sky. So- plant some trees on a flood plane and let nature do its thing!!
- look nice (they do!! All year round!)
- bring communities together! They are a valuable educational resource- birdwatching for instance.
But on a mental health and wellbeing perspective:
Walking through woodland areas can be a sensory experience – give mindful walking a go!
It is calming fresh air- actually getting outside – even thinking of nature
Being surrounded by trees can improve creativity – probably because you are more likely to be disconnected from screens – physical and mentally.
Next time you feel a bit stressed, run down, like your get up and go has got up and gone, just take a walk. Find some open space. Disconnect from technology and thing, breathe, and recharge. Why not see if there is somewhere you can plant a tree? Or join a local conservation group. If you are on Instagram or Twitter – tag @RamblingLiz.