a garden outside our windows
I had the pleasure of hearing Delegate Jon Cardin speak the other night of his commitment to environmental causes. He mentioned a statistic I had never heard before: the State of Maryland loses an average of 6000 acres of tree cover a year and we only plant approximately 850 acres of trees. Assuming we lose some of those new trees to drought and illness and neglect, the problem becomes even worse.
This loss of trees, he goes on to say, has to be stopped. This is bad for all sorts of reasons: loss of trees contributes to increased CO2 emissions suffocating the atmosphere; increases in erosion; reduces the soil's capacity to filter out pollutants; reduces shade and moisture; reduces an invaluable air-scrubbing quality that trees provide; and reduces the amount of fresh oxygen that trees return to the atmosphere in their respiration.
What can we do? First and foremost, plant more trees in our own yards. Small trees can even grow in planters on porches outside our apartments. Get together and plant small groves of different kinds of trees that are friendly to and comfortable in our growing zone. (You can find a list of native trees at Treemendous Maryland's website: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/criticalarea/trees.html
Second, plant trees at our synagogues. Many of our congregations have large, expansive lawns. Planting orchards and groves of trees on them offer a variety of benefits:
-- it adds natural beauty to our over-civilized urban and suburban landscapes.
-- it connects each of us involved in the process of playing in the dirt in an most intimate way with the land around us
-- it adds all the benefits that trees provide: shade, healthier air, outdoor programming spaces, soil conservation and health, water purification, spiritual delight
-- it is less expensive to maintain trees than to constantly mow, seed, fertilize, and otherwise maintain our lawns
-- it diminishes the environmental harm that lawns cause. Nutrient and pesticide runoff harm our drinking water, the public waterways and the wildlife and economy that is dependent on them. [The urban lawn is estimated to receive an annual input of five to seven pounds of pesticides per acre (Schueler, 1995b) www.stormwatercenter.net].
In addition, traditional gas-powered lawn mowers are responsible for 5 percent of the nation's air pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. One gas mower running for an hour emits the same amount of pollutants as eight new cars driving 55 mph for the same amount of time, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. (www.dailycamera.com)
Imagine Sukkot in the midst of an apple orchard; or Passover with the fragrance of magnolia blowing in the shul. Talk to your rabbi and facilities committee now to begin planning for the spring planting season.
Third, support upcoming legislation that responds to this issue. (When we learn of such legislation, hopefully in the upcoming spring 2009 session, we will pass that information along to you.)
Trees won't solve all our problems, but the truth is, we cannot live without them.