The altruism of tree planting

There are plenty of trees in the part of London where I now live. I spent the first ten years of my life hardly ever seeing a tree, and when I did see trees they were stout huge park trees in Victoria Park. I wondered how children could ever climb them, as they always seemed to climb them in the children’s stories I read, but those stories also told of grass which I rarely saw. I never played a game of football on grass until I was eleven years old.

Trees are good stores of carbon. They suck it up and store it in their wood. We need to store as much of the stuff as we can. It must be the quickest and least expensive way to sequestrate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and render it harmless. Of course as trees get old and die they rot and that process puts pack some of the carbon they stored but not all of it.

It does not matter who owns the trees. It matters that we have them and should have more of them.

The old saying was “walnuts and pears you plant for your heirs”, and more pertinent today with our human emissions of carbon dioxide caused by burning than it was in the 17th century, when it seems the saying originated.

Planting trees is an act of altruism. It may be that you never taste their fruit or reap their benefits, but future generations will as an uncontroversial way of combating climate change. Many ways that we have adopted to fight climate change (such as using cropped biomass from trees for fuel) have adverse consequences that vested interests gloss over. I have been trying hard but can think of no unintended consequence for tree planting.


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