Five dozen trees

The second round of tree cutting at the office building where I work seems to have taken place over the weekend. I don’t think there will be a third round, but the damage has been done. There have been a total of sixty trees cut down, so that an already large parking lot can be expanded even more. In my humble opinion, that’s not the right direction to be moving in.

As I was out walking my dog this evening, trying to wrap my mind around what sixty trees look like, I considered a city block. There are probably sixty trees on the tree lawns of the houses on my block. I’ll count them one day and see how close this estimate is. But for now, I’ll say that if the city came out tomorrow and cut down every tree on the tree lawn in my block (that grassy area between the street and the sidewalk), it would certainly be a shocking sight. And that’s just the impact that we can actually see.

On a more invisible level is all of the oxygen that the trees give off, and all of the carbon monoxide and other things that they take in. And let’s also remember the shade that they give off. 100 degree temperatures are barely tolerable when standing in the shade of a tree. Imagine what happens when that tree is gone  or, worse yet, has been replaced by a big slab of asphalt instead. Multiply that by sixty, and it’s possible to break into a sweat just thinking about it.

The building that cut the trees down promises to replant new trees, on a one-for-one basis to replace what they have already cut down. This isn’t quite as good as it sounds, since it stands to reason that the older and larger the tree is when it is cut down, the more benefit it offers to the environment.

So let’s say this building’s owners go ahead and plant sixty new trees. I counted the new tree  stumps myself, and I intend to count the new trees that are planted, as well. Those sixty new trees will be dramatically smaller than the sixty trees that were lost over the past week. This means less shade, less oxygen given off, and less pollution absorbed. It’s better than nothing, but it’s far from an even exchange, even if we were to ignore the negative effect of the asphalt that goes in where the trees once were.

There far worse things happening in the world than the loss of five dozen trees for an expanded parking lot in the suburbs. I’m not trying to claim anything to the contrary. But at the same time, it feels like something significant has been lost, when this planet can ill afford to lose anything to help combat against an ever warmer and more unpredictable climate.

What’s done is done, and the expanded parking lot will be in place by the end of the summer. But the events of the past few days have compelled me to think about what can be done to help this planet out. So at least one positive thing, however small, will come from this.

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