By Mike McQuaide, Sustainable Newton Board Member
We celebrate Arbor Day in Georgia in February (on the 3rd Friday), when weather conditions are best for planting trees. This year, many communities are scaling back or canceling celebrations dues to COVID-19. So, we asked board member Mike McQuaide to reflect on his love of trees.
One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have had occasion to focus more clearly on the features of life they value the most. The adage “you don’t miss your water until your well runs dry” is certainly applicable at this moment in American history. Being with friends and family indoors, going into restaurants and stores, freely traveling to distant places, and the many dimensions of life are suspended to some extent right now. Many of us find it insightful to step back and consider more deeply the features of life that we have taken for granted --but now seem out of reach-- at least for the time being.
Broadening our appreciation of the world we take for granted can bring a renewed appreciation and desire to protect the natural world. The natural environment is complex and diverse; one visible aspect of the natural world are the trees around us. Arbor Day provides an opportunity to step back and consider the many benefits of trees in our shared communities. The most visibly obvious benefits being the aesthetic advantages of trees. On a subconscious level, trees can evoke our sense of beauty. Office workers with a view of trees are more productive than those in windowless workplaces. Seeing trees can reduce our blood pressure and help our muscles to relax.
The U.S. Department of Energy says as few as three trees strategically planted around a house can save up to $250 a year in utility bills.
The benefits extend far beyond our emotional lives. Trees absorb storm water. With soil covered by parking lots, stores, and other buildings, the earth’s ability to absorb and store the rain is lost. The resulting run-off is environmentally damaging and costly. Trees provide shade and reduce air temperatures -- typically by ten or more degrees. This keeps buildings cooler and can significantly reduce utility bills for air-conditioning. Homeowners with adequate shade can save hundreds of dollars each year. The U.S. Department of Energy says as few as three trees strategically planted around a house can save up to $250 a year in utility bills.
Trees have other economic benefits too. Surveys consistently demonstrate the value of land and homes is significantly increased by mature trees on the property. Homes with mature trees sell more rapidly and at higher prices than treeless properties. Trees help to protect against climate change by absorbing greenhouse gases. In a single year, a mature tree will absorb 50 pounds of CO2, and their cooling effect helps to blunt rising temperatures occurring regularly over recent decades.
Trees provide habitat for diverse wildlife. Newton County is home to many varieties of birds, mammals, amphibians, insects, and reptiles. Imagine how diminished our lives would be in the absence of songbirds and other creatures that enrich our world of sound.
Considering these wonders of trees can enhance our understanding of their critical importance. This understanding creates beliefs that motivate our actions. Our actions can and should serve to preserve and enhance the tree cover here in Newton County. This period of rapid population, commercial, and industrial growth requires us to consider how to preserve the best parts of life in this county. Take a moment to reflect on the many positive consequences of trees we too often take for granted. Become part of a constituency that lobbies for preservation and strives to increase the tree cover here in Newton County.
Town of Newborn Arbor Day Celebration: Saturday, February 27, 2021, 1 PM to 2 PM
Drive through and pick up a free seedling (flowering dogwood or crepe myrtle) at the Historic Newborn Schoolhouse while supplies last. For details, visit www.newbornga.com.
For more Arbor Day inspiration, check out this beautiful, moving film about efforts to clone and replant coast redwoods in the Pacific Northwest.