Category Archives: Earth and Climate

Imagine a world without trees

We had no idea how many trees were on earth, but there were plenty of wild quesses. The September  issue of the journal Nature provided much needed answers. Three trillion! There are 7 billion folks walking around, that’s 425 trees per person. Is that a lot of trees per person?

The study theorizes that at the beginning of civilization, there were 6 trillion trees. Yes indeed, half the earth’s trees are no more. The investigators estimate that we are losing 10 billion trees per year. In 150 years, there will only be half again, 1.5 trillion trees. We can count on 10 billion folks walking around 150 years from now. That’s only 150 trees per person. Yikes!

Let’s assume that 150 years ago there were less than 1 billion folks walking around amonst 4.5 trillion trees. Back in the day, there were 4,500 trees per person. We were tree rich, now we are heading towards tree bankrupcy.

What good are trees you ask? They clean water, stabilize climates, build fertile soil, provide food and raw materials, and soak up carbon emmissions to mediate the effects of global warming. You might come to the conclusion that they are one of the most important organisms on earth. They are also beautiful and produce oxygen, you know, the stuff we breathe!

Human activity is the most significant cause of the decline in trees. Currently, 50% of the trees live in tropical and subtropical regions, 25% live in temperate zones, and 25% live in the northern boreal forests. The boreal forests happen to be the most dense, 1 tree per square meter. That’s about a square yard for you nonmetric people. The following map shows the worldwide distribution of trees.

That strip across the top is the boreal forest. My fear is that as the climate warms and the boreal forests dry out, there will be massive wildfires that greatly increase the rate of future tree loss. If you have ever seen a wildfire, you know that dry trees growing close together burn like crazy.

We should have a goal of increasing the number of trees on earth to 4 trillion. As the population grows to 10 billion, that keeps our current ratio of about 400 trees per person intact. Note: I have rounded numbers to make the math more pleasing to the eye without changing the overall gruesome results.

My advise, while trees abound,

Get out there and be amazed…


Expressing Gratitude to the Earth

I listened to a Christmas Eve podcast of NPR’s “On Point”. Dacher Keltner, co-founder of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, was discussing the positive benefits of expressing gratitude.

New research is validating an old wisdom. Money, power and station in life cannot buy happiness. In fact, the pursuit of material possessions can increase stress, anxiety and affect health adversely.

The antidote to materialism is to shift your mindset and express gratitude for the things you have. Perhaps what you already have is enough to provide contentment. There is a difference between need and want. Most of us want so much, but actually need so little.

Studies of the neuroscience of positive emotions conclude that activities that benefit your pro-social nervous system result in a happier attitude, healthier immune system and better sleep patterns.

These activities include experiences in beauty and awe. Where better to find experiences of beauty and awe than in our own natural world.

Instead of acquiring a never ending mound of consumer goods, why not pursue experiences in nature. Spend some of that money on a wilderness trip, an outdoor hiking adventure or rafting down a white water river. The opportunities are endless. Studies have proven that experiences have a  longer lasting positive memory than the purchase of yet another consumer item. An experience can last a life time. The newness of a new consumer item seldom lasts longer than a few days.

Gratitude is the social glue that holds communities together. Being grateful for the gifts you have and the folks you know is good for your soul. People have a large capacity to express gratitude in situations of crisis.

The earth is entering an era of climatic and ecological crisis. It is time to express gratitude to our home, the earth. We should be grateful for the gifts the earth has provided and show that gratitude in our relationship to nature. We can give back by being good stewards and conserving our natural resources.

Most important we can express our love for the earth and the natural world in which we live. The diversity of animals and plants are a special gift, a sacred gift to be cherished, not plundered.

Get out there and be amazed…

Cold Snap this Thanksgiving

Its been a cold Thanksgiving in North Central Washington. First it snowed and then frigid cold settled over the region. Temperatures are in the single digits at night and way below freezing during the day.

After the wildfires this summer very little habitat was left intact for the wildlife. Its going to be a long hard winter for the deer, birds and coyotes.

We went to Winthrop the Saturday after Thanksgiving for the “End of the Road” festival. Fireworks were spectacular.

Of course you can’t keep dogs inside all day. They love to run and play. Carl loves to hunt rabbit, but this snow bunny below had him stumped.

Get out there and Be Amazed…

Spring is blossoming forth

imageIn a few weeks this weeping cherry will burst forth in a glory of blossoms. Not long ago tree was a collection of bare twigs shaped like a weeping cherry. Today you can see the transition as the twigs begin to bud out. What happened?

Tree woke up from a winter slumber. Each fall tree realizes winter is coming. Days are shortening and tree begins to move its sap and associated energy into the root system, in effect, preparing to hibernate until the days begin to lengthen, signaling to tree that spring is soon to arrive. Weeks before the official start of spring, much activity is taking place ‘underground’ as tree releases its store of energy to start another cycle of growth.

So it is with many of our natural cycles. Much activity precedes the point that we are aware of any change. The signals that initiate these changes in cycle have evolved over thousands of generations. For many plants the changes in length of day signal changes to their yearly cycle. Length of day is just a trigger. It correlates to the average climate conditions at the latitude that tree lives. What will be the impact of global climate change on the average local conditions when tree wakes up each spring?

Tree is expecting to wake up to a certain temperature, a level of moisture in the ground around its root, and a certain CO2 level in the air. Remember plants breath the opposite from animals (that would be us). They breath in CO2  and exhale oxygen!

One spring is tree going to wake up to a nightmare? Conditions may not be what tree is expecting.

What’s amazing to me is that tree sleeps with one eye open. Tree has an internal clock, an awareness of when the days get longer. When the alarm goes off, tree must drag itself out of bed. Same as you and I.

Be amazed…

Singing Springing Songbirds

You might be thinking that spring will never ever get here. Forget about that groundhog. Pay attention to the birds in your backyard. They know spring is on its way.

Grey Jay

This morning I walked out back and the sound of songbirds greeted my ears. Songbirds, mostly males, begin their annual dawn chorus just as spring is beginning to arrive. The theory is they are defending their territory and trying to attract a mate.

No matter the reason, what a surprise when you notice those songbirds singing for the first time. Just stop and listen for a few minutes. Feel the joy of knowing that winter will soon give way to spring. Its just around the corner.

We all share the winter,

You, me then the spring.

Again we hear the songbirds sing.

Experience nature and Be Amazed…