Green Junction: The Treacherous Reality of Tree Loss By Julie Peller Ph.D.

For areas of the Northern Hemisphere that experience four distinctive weather seasons, it is the time of the year when trees provide an ablaze of colors, one of nature’s stunning wonders. In addition to their visual beauty, trees provide oxygen, shade, ecosystems, and so much more to life on earth. The tree cover worldwide plays a vital role in the earth’s climate.  

           The treacherous reality of tree loss in the US and worldwide from recent extensive wildfires is related to climate change, but there are many other reasons for tree loss. According to the World Resources Institute, trees absorb 16 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year; however, deforestation and other disturbances released an average of 8.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. “The Amazon basin has experienced heightened deforestation in the last four years due to clearing for cattle pasture and degradation from fires.” The USDA Forest Service cites a loss of 6.8 million acres on average each year for the past decade in the Western US. In 2020, Brazil lost nearly 5 million acres, an increase of 25% from 2019. In Australia, the past two years experienced a nine-fold increase in tree cover loss from fires and extreme temperatures. In Indiana, 85 of its 92 counties lost forest area from 2001 to 2016. 

FaithND offers this relevant reflection for this autumn season: 

As we welcome the autumn months, may the earlier setting of the sun 

remind us to take time to rest. May the brilliant colors of the leaves remind us of the wonder of your creation. May the steam of our breath in the cool air remind us that it is you who give us the breath of life.” 

The Prayer of the Woods by the Portuguese writer Alberto de Veiga Simões:

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights, the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on. I am the beam that holds your house, the board of your table, the bed on which you lie, and the timber that builds your boat. I am the handle of your hoe, the door of your homestead, the wood of your cradle, and the shell of your coffin. I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty. Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer: Harm me not.”

Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.

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