By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Tree, oak, at LBJ Wildflower Center

Sturdy oak at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. (Photo: GRN)

It’s Earth Day. How silly. We’re on this planet 24/7. But I guess after the Cuyahoga River went up in flames, it was time for a reminder.

Today, as we roast under a greenhouse gas blanket of around 400 ppm carbon dioxide, higher than it’s ever been for humans, the reminder’s still valuable.

There are about 100 things you could do on Earth Day. You can pledge, repair or restore something to mark the day so many ways. And there are about 100 books telling you what and how to do this. If you’ve got something in mind – getting an electric car or remembering your reusable grocery bags – go for it!

The point is, take steps.

This year, I’m thinking, what if everyone just planted a tree? In their own backyard, or via a contribution to a tree planting group? It would make a difference. Just add a tree. Maybe two.

Trees help cleanse the air, slow runoff, feed bugs, nurture birds, cool the planet and calm our nerves. This is all scientifically proven. (And I just read a sweet book about an endearing tree nut, called The Man Who Planted Trees. This book extols the value of native trees and chronicles our stupid ignorant abuse of them, which reminds me of other good books about trees, like the one for little kids called Seeds of Change about Kenyan Greenbelt founder Wangari Maathai or that tear-jerker for all ages, The Giving Tree.)

Mother Nature knew what she was up to when she endowed trees with her magical powers.

The Giving Tree

A masterpiece with layered meanings by Shel Silverstein.

Did you know that the roots of trees sustain microorganisms that enrich the soil? That supports the trees and the understory plants, which feeds the wildlife, which sustains the ecosystem, which may even help plump up the clouds, which keeps our giant rock in balance and suitable for our life. Or as they say in grade school, and the green grass grew all around.

Of course, a little 2, 4-D weed and feed messes up that virtuous root-planet cycle.

Because we now understand that trees could help us avert climate disaster, we’re actually putting trees back in Europe and the US. We reforesting.

Meanwhile, our consumerist alter-ego is furiously burning forests in Indonesia for palm oil, and sending out the bulldozer to make space for soybeans and livestock in South America.

Geopolitics aside, liking trees is not controversial. You can be a tree-hugger. Be a tree-hugger. Be a tree-hugger in your own town. Just not in your own mind. Later, you can learn more about the orangutans being blasted from existence because of snack foods.

For now, start with just one tree. Maybe it produces lemons on your patio. Voile! You’re a local food producer. Maybe it shelters your home. AC bill, take that!

Or, if you contribute to a tree group (like Austin’s Tree Folks), you can help restore the air, the rainforests, or the Rocky Mountain pines savaged by a tiny beetle unleashed by climate change. You don’t have to blockade Exxon’s offices or picket the White House, you can do this from your own home. In fact, do it from your own home. Because that’s what this is ultimately about, your home and your family. Your future and theirs.

Copyright © 2014 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media