Earth Day 2019

Loblolly Pines, Miller County Arkansas

April 22 is special to me for several reasons.  It is my daughter and son-in-law’s wedding anniversary and every year it reminds me that the future of the planet will be inherited by them, the next generation.  And it’s also Earth Day.

The first “Earth Day” was April 22, 1970.  I was busy listening to Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and going to school.  It didn’t really affect me but I remember the publicity, the marches, and dire warnings about how we were destroying our planet and how we needed to change our ways. 

The annual Earth Day publicity likely influenced my love for trees.  Trees have been special to me ever since my wife and I purchased our first home.  It was situated on a lot that was previously farm land.  No trees except the single one that the builder had planted in the front yard.  So as first time homeowners, we started purchasing landscape and planting trees.  Our rural zoning subdivision dictated a big yard; we needed lots of trees so we decided to purchase and plant pine “seedlings”.  We initially planted our trees in a garden-type setting and later transplanted them to permanent locations in the yard.  Lots of work, but we were young and enjoyed seeing the finished product.  My newfound “expertise” regarding trees would prove useful later. 

My grandfather grew up and lived in a small town in East Texas near the Arkansas border.  Cass County to be more specific; the same Cass County that Don Henley titled his 2015 album.  (Great album – a great review from Rolling Stone magazine). My grandfather believed in the value of land and over his lifetime, accumulated numerous acres in Cass County and the adjacent Miller County, Arkansas.  He died in 1953 and later, when my grandmother passed, some of the land from their estate was sold; some inherited by his heirs.  My sister and I were the beneficiaries of some of that inherited land.  Neither one of us lived near-by so we would occasionally visit “our rural land” while visiting our cousins who still lived in East Texas.  Years passed, and we were approached by an individual who wanted to buy the timber on our land.  The ca$h was a nice windfall and it triggered the idea of replanting the area as a tree farm. 

Loblolly Seedling, 1992

We both had young children and envisioned the possibility that the harvest from our tree farm could fund our children’s educations.  So we did some research and, with the assistance and recommendations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we planted a lot of loblolly pine trees in 1992.

We were a bit over optimistic about how fast trees grow – even loblolly pines – and the big “college fund windfall” didn’t quite work out.  (Our kids decided to go to college after high school instead of waiting another 20 or so years before starting.)  But nevertheless, the trees did grow and grow and, since that planting in 1992, we’ve had the trees thinned out twice. We’re looking forward to another thinning in a few years and a few years after that, it is recommended we have our tree farm “clear cut” and the process of replanting is repeated.  When we planted these trees, my motive was financial – not environmental.  But now I realize how important trees are to the environment.  The Canopy Project, a reforestation campaign by the Earth Day Network, provides insights on how important.  To quote from their website:

“The benefits of trees are extraordinary. Trees provide food, energy and income to help communities achieve long-term economic and environmental sustainability. Trees also filter the air and help reverse the impacts of climate change. In just one year, a mature leafy tree produces as much oxygen as 10 people inhale!”

So in addition to simply watching the trees we’ve already planted continue to grow, what can I do?  The Earth Day Network suggests: Get Involved, Give to the Cause, Spread the Word.

Regarding trees, one of the goals for Earth Day 2020 (the 50th Anniversary) is to plant 7.8 billion trees, one for every person on earth.  The Canopy Project invites donations and indicates “every dollar donated will pay to plant a tree:  $1 = 1 Tree.”  I plan to make a donation.

Most cities will be hosting Earth Day activities – typically on either Sunday, April 14, or Sunday April 21.  Google “Earth Day your city” to learn more about what your city will be doing and how you can be involved.  I plan to volunteer in one or more of the Earth Day activities. I confess, I’ve never participated in an Earth Day project; this year will be the first and I’m looking forward to it.

And beyond donating, and volunteering on Earth Day, the movement reminds us there are many ways individuals can take action.  Specifically:

  • Take the Pesticide Pledge
  • End Plastic Pollution
  • Make Your Own Act of Green
  • Plant a Tree or Donate to Plant a Tree
  • Reduce Your Footprint
  • Eat Less Meat
Our Tree Farm, 2019

My wife and I visited our tree farm in January.  It’s like a forest; very quiet and beautiful. The circumference of a typical tree, which we planted as a seedling some 27 years ago, is about 6 feet and we estimated the height between 50 and 75 feet tall. Every day these loblolly pines are contributing to the environment by filtering the air and I hope our children and grandchildren will continue this tradition of supporting tree projects to benefit the earth.

In addition to the worldwide Earth Day Canopy Project, there are numerous other worthwhile organizations involved in planting more trees. The Arbor Day Foundation, founded in 1972 (one hundred years after the first “Arbor Day”) has over 1 million members and has been instrumental in planting trees throughout the United States for decades. Arbor Day is celebrated nationally on the last Friday of April but a number of states have designated their celebration on another day – to align better with optimal planting conditions. For example, Texas celebrates Arbor Day on the first Friday in November. And many cities and communities have their own tree planting initiatives. “Trees for Houston“, for example, another non-profit organization, shows how a near-by street, park, or school can benefit from tree planting projects. And, beyond the trees, volunteers, including children, are involved in learning the importance of planting and nurturing trees.

Originally I had planned to post this blog closer to Earth Day, April 22, but after learning how to become more involved, I decided to post it early so that others might want to get involved too.

Happy Earth Day Celebration! Happy Arbor Day Celebration! And welcome to all the new trees that are planted! We need you so much.

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