The Creative Coast’s blogspot is Savannah’s sounding board for local thinkers, innovators, wanderers and wonderers. Guest bloggers share their thoughts, opinions and creative noodling from all over the map. This week’s blog is from Karen Jenkins, executive director of Savannah Tree Foundation. Read on to find out why this Friday may just be the most important day of the year….
This Friday is Georgia Arbor Day. What is Arbor Day and why should I care, you might be thinking….
First, you should care because trees are the number one source of new oxygen on our planet. Everyone needs oxygen to breath, and that is just the first of many resources that trees give to us humans, and all the other living things on planet earth.
This Friday, stop for just a moment and think about all the wonderful resources that come from trees. There are tangible things such as fruits, including: apples, peaches, pears, plums, apricots, nectarines, mangoes, guavas, juju, cocoa, limes, lemons, grapefruit, mandarins, oranges, avocados and quinces; nuts: walnuts, almonds, pecans, and cashews; wood products in infinite sizes and dimensions to be used in all types and sorts of construction (just take a walk through Guerry Lumber); peeler logs for plywood, pulp logs for a plethora of paper products (one of the highest volume products moved through our local port), bark for landscaping projects (but please don’t use cypress mulch, it is not sustainable), leaves for holiday wreaths, and year round floral arrangements; sap for sweet syrup, rubber products and turpentine; wood planks for guitars, violins, cellos, violas and pianos, pieces for tool and broom handles and baseball bats and unique pieces for art. And you have probably already thought of something else!
And then think about what trees do for us. Trees provide shade when it’s hot (which is most of the year here in Savannah!), cool the air temperature, absorb rain water, clean dirty soils by absorbing toxins in contaminated soils, reduce air pollutants, cool asphalt and concrete—making it more enjoyable to walk or ride a bike. And trees protect our skin from the sun’s damaging rays. Trees provide habitat. As many as 2000 different species of plants, micro-organisms and animals live in tree canopies. Lichen, Spanish moss, redbugs, resurrection fern, ticks and squirrels are common in Chatham County. Birds, bats, rodents, spiders, fungi, snakes and more may be up in there too!
And yet some of the greatest benefits trees provide are not counted by tree rings, board feet, tonnage, CO2 sequestered, or gallons of water transpired. Trees can make us happy and help us heal faster. Trees can reduce stress levels, encourage neighborly interactions, and even can reduce crime. (Hint to Metro police: have you compared the crime map to the tree canopy map?) Trees in shopping districts even encourage us to spend more money. We know that trees increase real estate values, trees encourage drivers to slow down and they even reduce low birth weight rates.
Trees give us a sense of place, they tie together streets and blocks, buildings and roadways. They help create neighborhoods and communities and make us feel safe when walking, or biking, from one place to another. Savannah’s trees are an integral part of the community. Tourists from all over the world know Savannah for its tree lined streets and squares. They are our green infrastructure and are an integral part of this community. In short, trees define us.