Yesterday I wrote about the deep irony behind Avatar’s deep ecology storyline. I want to pick up on one more thread from the movie’s story: the worship of trees.
One movie character derides another as a treehugger, an epithet I doubt will be used in 2154, when the movie is set. And there’s a reference to there being no green left on Earth at this time. The Tree of Souls is the most important religious shrine on Pandora, and becomes a central player in the storyline.
Seems that idea raised the ire of the Vatican, which has condemned the movie for its celebration of pantheism and trees.
Which got me thinking about trees here on Earth.
It turns out that if a sick person in a hospital is recuperating from a disease, they get better faster, leave the hospital sooner, and are less likely to return if they see green outside their hospital window. Even one tree is enough for this effect to work. Imagine that.
Kids playing outdoors in nature during the day—swinging from trees, playing with acorns—are smarter (scoring higher on standardized tests), socialize better, exhibit less ADHD, and are less truant. Schools nationwide are trying to get kids back outdoors and into trees.
Trees are homes to innumerable other creatures. They cool the air in the summer, stop wind in winter, buffer noise pollution, and naturally remove—and lock away—carbon dioxide, thus ameliorating global warming. Plant trees around your house, and your energy bill goes down.
Here in the suburbs, they stop the scourge of stormwater: a tree’s millions of leaves slow rainfall’s velocity. After it rains, stormwater is slowly released by trees to the ground where it can safely percolate into soil. Remove trees, and rain pours unimpeded into our streets and immediately into streams, where it roils the stream’s banks, eroding them into naked cliffs.
And mature trees outside your home can raise its asking price by as much as 20%.
So trees offer innumerable services to us, but we have been doggedly doing our best to remove them—and religious leaders like the Vatican are fairly silent on the worldwide deforestation going on in plain sight around us every day.
Just look at what trees do for us: maybe we ought to worship them.
But don’t listen to me, I’m just a treehugger.