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Trees



My outdoor office under the walnut tree in our garden in Hungary, where I work and write every morning.

It remains pleasant almost all day under this tree, even in temperatures of 35 degrees or more in the sun. Another evidence of the natural air conditioning properties of trees.

In the evening we feel the coolness coming down from the forest, through the whole garden to the house.

Trees also bring water: once the sun has set, the forest on the hill behind our house releases water vapor and after a short time the grass is wet everywhere in the garden. This is all too necessary, because like the whole of Europe (or rather, the whole world), Hungary is also struggling with severe drought and increasing frequency of heat waves.

This weekend the temperature will reach forty degrees Celsius here, I wonder if the tree-airco of my office will still be sufficient.


Does it still need to be said: more trees! Everywhere! And real forests, not tree plantations. Research has repeatedly shown that real forests are not only living super-organisms that are more than the sum of their parts, they also have a much stronger cooling effect on their surroundings than tree plantations (not to mention the fact that they harbor infinitely more species of life than tree plantations).

Trees also attract water. We generally think that trees grow where it rains, but it is rather the other way around: it rains where there are trees. Because of that phenomenon called the "biotic pump," it can rain in areas far from coastlines. Without trees, rain could only occur about five or six hundred kilometers inland.

In the Amazon forest, there is an observable direct relationship between the degree of deforestation in the forest and the increasing drought there. The fewer trees, the less rain, the more vulnerable the remaining trees become. At some point, the forest can no longer regenerate and the ecosystem collapses. In the Amazon forest, that point is very close. According to some, that tipping point has already been crossed and the Amazon forest will become a savannah.

Needless to say, trees are essential to the ability of our biosphere to maintain the conditions in which life can thrive.

And of course, not only are trees essential, all of the fabric of life on our planet is essential to the preservation of... life. Just about all life-forms affects the climate. Algae, bacteria, insects, fish, small and large mammals, whales, you name it. All are connected in an incredibly complex fabric that helps the planet stay in homeostasis or balance, and maintain a livable temperature.

The more I learn about this, the more amazed I become at the wonderful magic that lies within it, and the perfection of the balances that have grown over millions of years. In certain areas of the world, without certain bacteria in the air, there could be no rain. Whales, through their never-ending powerful movements, create a strong "stirring up" of water layers, which in turn affects large sea currents and the spreading of algae and nutrients throughout the oceans. Underwater kelp forests absorb more carbon than rain forests, and provide a habitat for countless species of life that in turn play their wonderful part in the whole. And so on and so forth. Literally all life plays a role in the super-organism of which we are a part, our biosphere.


That is why it makes little sense to only talk about a reduction of greenhouse gases, however desperately needed this may be. As long as we continue to exterminate insects, as long as we continue to clearcut the last rain forests to make way for palm oil plantations, as long as we continue to bury every last stretch of nature under asphalt in the name of 'economic growth', as long as we continue to empty the seas at breakneck speed, as long as we sacrifice remaining natural areas for mining, that long our climate will continue to go out of balance.

You can read more about this in my essay 'Let us not talk about the climate crisis any longer’ on this site.

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