On Wednesday, May 11, 2011 The Pace West School in Gainesville celebrated Arbor Day. I was fortunate to be able to participate on behalf of the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation District. Pace West will be moving by fall, so this year’s Arbor Day class each received a seedling to take home and care for. The seedlings came from the Virginia Forest Service.
Though Arbor Day is typically observed the last Friday in April, a day of tress is now observed around the world at different times based on ideal planting season. Wednesday, was a perfect day for planting trees in Gainesville, Virginia. Arbor Day was an early recognition of the need for sustainability in how we live on the earth.
Arbor Day was founded in Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton in 1872 when a million trees were planted in a single coordinated effort to counteract the deforestation that had occurred as trees were harvested to support the growth of the nation. In his speech to the school children who had planted and later cared for many trees, Mr. Morton described the great oneness of nature in all its parts. Man is dependent on plants for life, for the wealth, beauty and luxuriance of harvest fields, orchard fruits, forest glades, and for the recycling nutrients into the earth. Before the first Arbor Day, wood had been harvested, the lands stripped of trees, without planting to repair the waste. This had resulted in floods and droughts, infertile and barren soil, and even the extinction of entire communities as the land seemed to be used up and blown away across the prairie.
Each generation of humanity takes responsibility of the earth as trustees to hold until the next generation becomes the successors in trust. The next generation will inherit a very crowed earth in need of great care and stewardship. Trees are the first step in caring for the earth. We need to nurture and care for the trees so they in turn can sustain us. According to The Tree Folk “A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs/ year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings.”
Forests which are really treed ecosystems now cover 10 million square miles of earth. There was a time when forests extended much further. Most of the cultivated and inhabited lands of today were once forests or estuaries. The demand to covert ever more land to agriculture to support the increasing human population causes the loss of the forest ecosystem and increased soil erosion and flooding. The loss of large portions of the rain forest is believed by some to be a major contributor to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Trees can also reduce air conditioning and heating needs by providing shade and providing a wind shield for winter and reducing our overall use of carbon based fuels. Trees also act as natural pollution filters. Their canopies, trunks, roots, and associated soil filter polluted particulate matter out of the runoff flow towards the Chesapeake Bay. Trees also use and recycle nitrogen and phosphorus which are contributing to the decay of the Chesapeake Bay and its estuary.