FRIDAY, APRIL 30: Take a deep breath and thank the trees around you—it’s Arbor Day! Since its origin in 1872, U.S. citizens—and now people around the world—are prompted to plant trees. Dates vary by region, of course, depending on the ideal planting season for each location, but the official U.S. holiday is today. (Parents: You’ll find fun stuff for kids at this Web site for teachers.)
In the 1840s, Detroit native J. Sterling Morton pioneered in the Nebraska Territory, an area that had few trees. Settlers had virtually no lumber for houses or fuel, no shade from the sun or wind and no cover for their crops. A solution was desperately needed—and sparked J. Sterling Morton’s idea. (Read all about Morton on his Wikipedia page.) After promoting the planting of trees through his writing in Nebraska’s first newspaper, Morton became the secretary of the Nebraska Territory and proposed that Nebraska’s citizens take time one day—April 10—to plant trees. On the first Arbor Day, the settlers planted approximately 1 million trees. Morton cleverly compared Arbor Day to other holidays when he said: “Each of those reposes on the past, while Arbor Day proposes for the future.”
Rarely have Morton’s words been more powerful than 2010, in a time when “going green” is everywhere! In the book “Go Green, Live Rich,” David Bach writes that trees provide much more than oxygen. (Read the article here.) When trees are planted strategically around a home, wall and roof temperatures can be impacted, and the average household can save between $150 and $250 in energy costs every year! The New York Times also recently published an article on “water batteries” for trees, detailing Dutch inventor Pieter Hoff’s product that was presented at the Green California Summit in Sacramento last month. In areas of the world with little access to water, access becomes even more scarce when most of that water is used for agriculture and the planting of trees. Hoff points out that the current use of water is wasteful and inefficient, since most of the water evaporates, so he has created the Groasis Waterboxx as a possible solution. The Groasis Waterboxx collects rainwater and condensation in its chambers and does not let it escape—Hoff claims that his invention will vastly improve water access in much of the world, since his invention would work on both trees and crops, even in the driest of areas. Among Hoff’s “green” long-term business plans is the idea to provide a nonexclusive, free license to anyone who wants to manufacture the Waterboxx, so that the invention could be accessible to anyone—especially the poor farmers for whom the product was invented.
Trees have also long played an important role in many world religions. ReadTheSpirit provides a new Environmental Religious Resources Page—and even invites you to Email us with suggested additions. In addition to that Resources Page, ReadTheSpirit also just added reviews and recommendations of 5 more books and 3 films on green themes. Still not seeing the connection? It goes back thousands of years: Druids gathered around trees for worship, and other ancient pagans worshipped the trees themselves. Buddha came to his Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, and there’s a tree in the first chapter of Genesis. Jews plant trees on Tu B’Shvot, too, the “Jewish Arbor Day,” and recently, Sikh Avtar Singh Makkr pledged to plant 100,000 trees on March 14—in hopes of creating a Sikh Environment Day. (Read more at SikhFoundation.org.) Baha’u’llah was quoted as having said, “Man is like unto a tree. If he be adorned with fruit, he hath been and will ever be worthy of praise and commendation.”
How are you honoring or celebrating trees? Email us at [email protected]!
(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)
(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)