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  • Writer's pictureDan Goese Ⓥ🌱

🌳 The Awesome Power of Trees & Grass

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

"Between every two pine trees is a doorway leading to a new way of life." — John Muir, Father of the National Parks¹ & Racist

An ideal "forest bathing" spot if you're alone there: The Kumano Kodō (熊野古道) sacred trail in Kii Hantō, Japan.

Walking through John Muir's doorway—into your local park or nearby forest—can help you live a happier, healthier life. Have you walked through a forest lately? If not, it's time. Are you experiencing anxiety, unable to slow yourself down? A walk through nature can be part of the cure. I feel better just stepping outdoors in the morning (and our surroundings aren't the least bit "forest-like"). I'm exploring ways to help organizations preserve existing forests and plant more trees. It may be a drop in the bucket, but it's a [tiny] step in the right direction. Last year we planted six new trees in our side yard. Just looking after those young trees—which I hope will outlive me—feels rewarding.

Dialing up your happy, outdoor vibe to the *FOREST* level can help you feel better and help you better-appreciate how crucial our forests are to nature and life as we know it. My cousin Tim Duggan's wife, Kate Bast, has become an enthusiast and guide in "shinrin-yoku," which is Japanese connoting, "taking in the natural forest atmosphere" or just "forest bathing." Forest bathing is the perfect escape from nonstop distractions like your phone, the news, our demented president tRump and other distracted humans.

Connecting with forests goes beyond your personal mental and physical health. Countries with a higher quality of life have been found to expand their forest coverage rather than engage in deforestation. Improving human well-being is a key factor in the improvement of forest resources, according to a study by Finnish² researchers published earlier this year. Thanks to the amazing tree, soil in forests can capture and hold a large quantity of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Land-base plants³ are responsible for about half of our planet's carbon sequestration capability.

"Grass isn't just something you smoke, man. It's great for the planet, too." — Dan Goese, environmentalist & wise guy

California's forests are on fire just about every summer. California might not be the best place to plant more forests because of our diminishing water supply. UC Davis scientists have published this article about limitations to the planet-saving powers of trees. As pointed out in this study, forests will be less effective in the long run—as compared to grasses—for carbon sequestration, given the rising temperatures and ongoing wildfires in California. With such top-heavy biomass in trees, forest fires dramatically reverse the carbon flow, putting tons of carbon and toxins into the atmosphere with each fire, which negates the benefits of many years of healthy forest growth.

Compared to trees, much more of the biomass of grass is underground where it will not get burned, even in the event of a wildfire. The bad news for grasslands is that their growth is also stunted by higher temperatures, as pointed out in this earlier study.

California droughts increase in frequency and duration with anthropogenic climate change, reducing the carbon-gathering power of natural grasslands.

While planting more trees, avoiding deforestation, preserving open grasslands are all crucial to our planet's ecosystem, we also need to burn less fossil fuel.

  • Are your solar panels up and running yet?

  • Are you planning on a more efficient hybrid or electric vehicle for your next purchase?

  • Have you stopped using "virgin" paper and found sources of 100% recycled paper?

I hope so. I'll take "tree hugger" as a compliment, not a slur.

🌱 Now that you're another big lover of trees and grass, here is a very cool 40-minute movie called "Treeline" about trees. The film takes you on a fascinating, low-emission trip through various collections of trees (not all of them are forests). Feel free to smoke just a small patch of grass while you watch is quite mellow, ethereal and informative.


Environmental Trivia Related to This Post

① John Muir, clearly a California homeboy, was actually born in Scotland. His homeland now generates enough energy from wind power to supply twice as many homes as they have in the entire country, as reported here on ZME Science.

② Finland is Europe's most heavily-forested nation, with over 73% of the entire country covered by woodlands. The full Finnish study can be read here.

③ Amazingly, relatively unknown, single-celled phytoplankton in the ocean also capture about half of our planet's atmospheric and oceanic CO₂ through photosynthesis, as described in this National Geographic article.

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