On Earth, living things come in many forms. Some are feathered or furred, while others can be scaled or even leafy, although when we talk about living beings, we tend to summon thoughts of those more closely related to our own kind. We think of those who feel, breathe, make noise, and move about, whether by walking, crawling, galloping or flying, and forget those who stand still, silent and motionless in our vast forests, lined along our neighborhood streets, or even unobtrusively in our own yard: Trees.
As a life form, trees have existed on our planet for an estimated 370 million years. They covered roughly half of the land surface when our ancestors first came into existence. Trees have played a vital part in helping many species to live and prosper, including us humans.
If you get to know trees, you will learn that they are not just passive, brainless matter that just happen to grow out there in the wild. They are intelligent. While they don't sleep and eat the way we do, studies have found that trees do rest
at night and many in effect hibernate during the winter to conserve energy.
Just as we draw our nutrition from food and drink, trees extract nutrients and water through their roots, and harness energy from the sun to live and grow. As much as it may sound fairytale-like, trees are said to use their vast root networks as social channels to communicate their needs and feelings toward each other, even recognizing the difference between their offspring and other unrelated trees and changing their behavior. They can nurture family members by altering their root growth and even signal danger and distress to other trees.
Trees are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem, without which we cannot survive. They have woven themselves into every part of our lives, providing everything from the oxygen we breathe to the wood for the house we occupy, and books we read. We cannot live without them. However, it has never been a mutually beneficial relationship for trees, because to us, they are often just regarded as an endless natural resource to better our existence.
This precious resource we so depend on is dwindling at an alarming pace. Nearly half of our forests have already disappeared. Sadly, the human race has thrived because of trees, while their numbers have been diminished because of us. The future of our trees and forests is dire: Scientists warn that if we don't take action now, we could lose them all in just three hundred years.
Considering how important trees are to us and our future,it's time that we take care of them and their future. Trees are not just useful resources but vital partners in our lives. This coming Earth Day, I urge all my readers to learn something about trees and find ways to help them. We need more tree whisperers to keep our Earth green.
Reflections From The East Column:
By Qin Sun Stubis