The Roots of Hope

Yesterday, as I browsed the internet for headlines, I tuned into CNN for some background noise and by the end of the day my mood was as dark as the news. I have made it a habit to not tune into news channels for that very reason. Don’t take me wrong. My job entails absorbing a huge quantity of news. But for me, personally, the sort of news I thrive on is more along the lines of environmental issues.

It occurred to me, after cringing through stories of a troubled economy, that perhaps a lifetime of environmentalism and other lost or unpopular causes has given me a different perspective on the state of the world. I can sum up that difference in two words: unshakeable optimism.

I see a world which has become more self-aware and activists of all types joining together to create big changes. Taken individually, these actions can seem insignificant. Viewed as a whole, however, they become a force to be reckoned with.

That is why a little story from News Channel 19 in Chattanooga, Tennessee caught my eye. In a vow to reduce carbon monoxide by 7% from 1990 levels, volunteers are planting trees. Since last year they have planted a variety of trees in downtown neighborhoods, 620 of them in fact. The trees will not only absorb carbon monoxide, they will reduce the need for air conditioning by providing shade for the heat-absorbing concrete.

So back to the headlines. Stimulus spending, joblessness and energy problems. What better way to tackle all three head on than by planting trees? How many miles of highway do we have in this country just waiting for armies of workers to plant air-cleaning trees? Barren city streets scorching in the summer sun? Farmers’ fields blowing away from the lack of wind barriers? Vacant city lots devoid of life? Perhaps the greening of America should be more than a concept, maybe it should be a reality.

I admit, I am very partial to trees. I spend a lot of time out walking under them. They are a reminder of the solidity and continuity of life, the enormous potential for growth, and hope. Perhaps America needs a little of that right now.

Many of the trees I walk thru, many of the trees in the county in which I live, were planted there as part of the WPA work program during the depression. According to the old timers our beautiful rural landscape once looked like central Illinois, flat and treeless. Now it is a haven for much of Wisconsin, because of all of the beautiful trees.

thelegaltimes.net staff writer

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