Ecologically Nothing Ever Really Dies

EcoLogically Nothing Ever Really Dies, Only transformed from one useful form to another...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Trees, climate change and health: Part 2

I subscribe to the notion promoted by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry in the Book “the universe story” where they state that “The well being of the eco system of the planet is a prior condition for the well being of humans. We cannot have well being on a sick planet, not even with our medical science. So long as we continue to generate more toxins than the planet can absorb and transform, the members of the earth community will become ill”. Planting trees is one of the best ways we can ensure a healthy planet for good human health and well being.
I am an advocate of trees because they work every day for all of us to improve our environment, health and quality of life. Trees fight global warming and climate change while consequently improving the quality of our air, protecting our water and saving energy. Planting trees remains one of the cheapest, most effective means of drawing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Since excessive carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere are the leading cause of human induced climate change, trees become an important tool for mitigating and curbing climate change.  A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 21.6 Kgs/year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings.
In light of high temperatures resulting from global warming, trees have the ability to regulate local temperatures by transpiring water into the lower atmosphere and shading surfaces. By so doing, trees help to reduce the intensity of heat waves thereby reducing the effects of heat waves on the elderly and people with respiratory and cardiovascular disorders. The temperature regulation ability of trees helps reduce the demand on air conditioning in homes and offices thereby reducing pressure on fossil fuel burning for energy. This can be very helpful in Zimbabwe where energy shortages are acute and a significant percentage of our energy comes from coal.
Trees are a possible solution to the pressure exerted by climate change on water availability and quality and therefore health. Trees reduce topsoil erosion thereby preventing harmful land pollutants contained in the soil from getting into wells and open water sources. They use nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium which are by-products of urban living which can pollute water sources. Trees slow down water run-off thus ensuring that water sinks into the ground and our groundwater supplies are continually replenished. This ensures that communities have reliable water supply thereby reducing the risk of hygiene related diseases. The ability of trees to assist water to seep in the ground also helps to avoid the formation of stagnant pools. The incidence of water borne diseases and malaria are thus curbed.
Trees remove gaseous pollutants which contribute to climate change and poor health by absorbing them with normal air components. These gases include sulphur dioxide, ozone and nitrous oxide. Planting trees improves air quality in so doing reducing the risk of exacerbations of respiratory diseases. Trees also have therapeutic value. Planting trees can act as a remedy against the shortcomings of modern life in a world separated from nature. Research has shown that planting trees in different locations creates green spaces which are of value in alleviating stress and depression related to urban living.
For the benefit of our planet and our health, let us all plant trees wherever and whenever we can. It doesn’t cost much but our combined efforts will have a positive domino-effect which will echo for generations to come.

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