By Sarene Marshall, The Nature Conservancy
Given my work for a global conservation organization and my residence in a neighborhood filled with massive oaks, maples and hickories, it shouldn’t be surprising that my family and I are fond of trees.
And while we should all welcome any shade we get during another summer of record-breaking heat, even the most conservation-minded amongst us might find our love for trees tested right about now. You may not even feel like hugging one. After all, severe storms, like the derecho that freight-trained through the DC area recently, brought branches and trunks down on power lines and property and left millions without electricity for days. Meanwhile, epic large-scale forest fires, like the recent devastating blaze in Colorado Springs, have burned through much of the western U.S., threatening homes and businesses in their wake.
No, this hasn’t been a good PR month for trees.
I heard that one neighborhood proposed the drastic measure of cutting all their trees down. With global temperatures soaring, in part because of carbon pollution caused by massive deforestation in the tropics, that seems a little like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Yet, after days of being trapped in a 100-degree house with no air conditioning and seeing the horrifying images of scorched earth and destroyed neighborhoods, I sympathize with the instinct to prevent future disasters by getting rid of a perceived cause.
But, when it comes to managing the roles that trees play in these disasters, there is a better way. The secret lies in observing forests over time in the wild.