God’s Precious Trees
Sue Sherrill reflects on her childhood and love of trees.
My parents were children during the Great Depression. They were very careful with their belongings and rarely threw anything away. My father once repaired a styrofoam cooler with a screw and some Elmer’s Glue. My mother was six when her father died, and her mother struggled to make ends meet.
I grew up with their thrifty practices. My friend Molly thought I was strange washing tin foil, but when she came home with me and saw my mother doing the same thing, she said ‘I get it!’ I’m a compulsive recycler, which has gotten more challenging since China stopped taking our throw-aways.
My parents also enjoyed planting plants, flowers, and vegetables, so I also grew up with an appreciation of growing things. Once as a 10 year old, I planted a raw pumpkin seed in a paper cup with dirt in our dark basement. It grew six inches in just a couple of days, searching for sunlight. I was quite excited and couldn’t understand why my parents weren’t more impressed.
Over the years, I developed a special appreciation for trees. Trees give us the gift of absorbing carbon dioxide, which is the greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. They also cool and shade the Earth as opposed to asphalt and concrete, which reflect their heat back into the atmosphere. When you consider that the percentage of trees has greatly decreased and hardscape have greatly increased, is it any wonder that the Earth’s temperature has risen as much as it has?
I read recently that 48,000 trees have been torn down in the Atlanta area in the last 6 years. This statistic was revealed recently as the city is in the process of updating its tree ordinance. In 2007, Bill McKibbon founded the non-profit 350.org. Its theme was ‘keep it in the ground’, meaning fossil fuels, to keep the Earth’s CO2 levels at 350 parts per million. Currently the weather observatory on the Mauna Kea volcano of the Big Island of Hawaii is registering 414.6 parts per million of CO2. I think part of the reason for this rise in the carbon dioxide levels is a reflection of how we are treating God’s precious trees like so many toothpicks, when they should be valued for all they give us.