There's a lot in nature to love, but trees top my list for the many remarkable things they do for us. But while those things are truly astounding, they're nothing compared to the arboreal shock scientists recently got when they decided to count just how many trees there are on Earth.
The conventional wisdom had the number of trees on our planet at around 400 billion give or take a grove or two. That's nothing to bark at, but consider this: Each year, some 15 billion of these trees are cut down and only about five billion replacements are planted. That math isn't comforting - an annual net loss of 10 billion trees means that in about 40 years, there won't be any left at all.
What we need are a lot more trees and last month we got them in the form of an eye-opening new global census, which found an incredible 3 trillion trees growing around the world. That's 750% more than we thought we had and roughly 420 for every human being alive today. This is great news because these silent sentinels do a lot more than make oxygen.
Here are 10 of the most unexpected gifts. They may provide:
- Trees keep our kids at a healthy weight. The more trees there are nearby, the less likely kids are to become obese.
- Babies born in areas with greater numbers of trees are less likely to be born underweight.
- Children living in places with more trees have a lower incidence of asthma.
- Hospital patients whose windows looked out at trees healed faster, needed fewer medications, and experienced fewer complications than patients whose windows did not.
- Children with ADHD who regularly play in tree-filled spaces have less severe symptoms than those who don't.
- People who live in areas with higher tree numbers have fewer cardio-metabolic health problems and are less likely to die of cardiovascular or pulmonary disease.
- Spending time under trees lowers blood pressure and improves your mood. People who simply looked at a forest view for 20 minutes had 13% lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who didn't.
- Trees cool the air - a single young tree can provide the cooling equivalent of 10 room-size air conditioners running 20 hours a day.
- Trees placed around buildings save up to 50% percent of the energy needed to heat those structures.
- Trees trap dangerous fine particulate air pollutants like dust and auto exhaust and can cut the amounts that enter our homes by half. Just one tree can absorb 10 pounds of toxic air pollution every year.
In fact, over 40 years, 100 healthy trees will deliver between $232K and $272K worth of health and environmental services to the people living nearby, which makes planting trees one of the easiest and most effective ways to promote a healthier world. It's something we all can and should do, and it's simple to get started. Just check out this guide from the National Arbor Day Foundation. That and a shovel will give you what you need to help a greener future take root.