Not counting polar bears, the LAST thing climate hawks should talk about is trees, as that reinforces the stereotype that we’re “treehuggers” — misanthropic forest dwellers, arboreal ecoterrorists, indifferent to the plight of everybody who’s getting crushed under the weight of our imploding economy.
Well, I’m sorry, but what climate disruption is doing to trees, and what forest decline is doing in turn to the climate, is blowing my mind. The Gray Lady offers ample cause to freak out in this mind-boggling front-page NYT feature about the decline of forests globally:
The devastation extends worldwide. The great euphorbia trees of southern Africa are succumbing to heat and water stress. So are the Atlas cedars of northern Algeria. Fires fed by hot, dry weather are killing enormous stretches of Siberian forest. Eucalyptus trees are succumbing on a large scale to a heat blast in Australia, and the Amazon recently suffered two “once a century” droughts just five years apart, killing many large trees.
Experts are scrambling to understand the situation, and to predict how serious it may become.
Scientists say the future habitability of the Earth might well depend on the answer. For, while a majority of the world’s people now live in cities, they depend more than ever on forests, in a way that few of them understand.
(I love how they hyperlink “Earth”, like, maybe you need to clarify what planet you’re on. I feel that.)
The NYT published my letter (scroll down) in response — an ode to nature that must have been written by someone who is hopelessly out of touch with the Zeitgeist of economic fear and austerity…..but hey, my blog wasn’t up yet.
Sure, forests are about jobs too — especially when you think about how few jobs there will be on a dead planet. But they’re also deeply connected to who we are as people beyond our economic functions. For a lot of our species, rich and poor, they are a big part of the definition of home.
What comes to mind when you think of “home”? Are there trees in the picture?
Do you have a personal story about a tree? Post it to Ward Serrill’s cool TreeStory documentary film project.