Now, More Than Ever, We Need Arbor Day

Planting trees is one of the most effective things we can do to fight climate change.

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
Public Domain. USDA via Wikipedia

The last Friday of every April is National Arbor Day, which is not a big big deal anymore and isn't even celebrated everywhere, but it really should be. The American holiday was founded by J. Sterling Morton, who wrote:

"To preserve beauty on the earth, beauty herself beseeches us to plant trees, and renew dead landscapes with the shadow and light of plant life flitting through the pendant limbs, the willowy boughs and the waving foliage of sturdy, yet graceful woods. Our ancestors planted orchards to fruit for us, and homes to give us shelter."

Teddy Roosevelt liked the idea and promoted it, noting “a people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as hopeless.”

CCC planting trees

USDA via Wikipedia/Public Domain

Franklin Roosevelt's Conservation Corps planted three billion trees as a way of putting people to work during the Great Depression, writing: "The overwhelming majority of unemployed Americans, who are now walking the streets and receiving private or public relief, would infinitely prefer to work. We can take a vast army of these unemployed out into healthful surroundings."

That would be considered costly and socialist today, which is why Ontario, Canada's Premier canceled planting 50 million trees. The Arbor Day Foundation is going in the other direction, aiming to plant 100 million trees by 2022, noting:

"Humankind is facing a crisis: our ability to survive and thrive is at risk. Air and water pollution is rampant. Weather patterns are shifting at an alarming rate. Poverty is widespread. The entire globe is battling poor health for a number of reasons. And society as a whole is becoming more and more fractured."

It is strange that they cite "shifting weather patterns," not climate change, missing a huge opportunity to spread the message of how trees actually are one of our best tools in fighting climate change. It's actually sad, wimping out on their biggest marketing opportunity ever, about how trees can literally save the world. Imagine if they said something like Greta Thunberg, Michael Mann, Margaret Atwood, Bill McKibben, or Naomi Klein did in their recent open letter: Plant trees to save the world. They write:

"The world faces two existential crises, developing with terrifying speed: climate breakdown and ecological breakdown. Neither is being addressed with the urgency needed to prevent our life-support systems from spiralling into collapse. We are writing to champion a thrilling but neglected approach to averting climate chaos while defending the living world: natural climate solutions. This means drawing carbon dioxide out of the air by protecting and restoring ecosystems."

"By defending, restoring and re-establishing forests, peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, natural seabeds and other crucial ecosystems, large amounts of carbon can be removed from the air and stored. At the same time, the protection and restoration of these ecosystems can help minimise a sixth great extinction, while enhancing local people’s resilience against climate disaster. Defending the living world and defending the climate are, in many cases, one and the same."

CCC planting Trees

FDR Presidential Library via Wikipedia/Public Domain

Every tree that is planted absorbs carbon dioxide.

That's why Arbor Day is important; we have to plant trees, lots of them, right now. We can put people to work doing something that stores carbon instead of making it. And surely, we can recognize that what is going on is worse than "shifting weather patterns."