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When Bad Things Happen to Good Trees

All over the Midwest we’re losing millions and millions of ash trees due to the Emerald Ash Borer.  Perhaps there’s a “good tree” in your yard that is showing the first signs of infestation or worse still, has already succumbed to the voracious silvery green pest.  Now you’re faced with the very expensive task of removing it since it poses a significant hazard to life and property if left standing.  If you live in the Midwest region and this is the first that you’re hearing about this, trust me that it’s only a matter of time until you see what transpires when bad things happen to good trees.

Since its accidental introduction into the United States, the Emerald Ash Borer has spread to 14 states and adjacent parts of Canada.  ash_green150Here in Chicago about 19% of our trees are ash trees and while the City of Chicago has embarked on a very small treatment program to help flatten out the “ash tree curve of death” , it’s odds-on that we’ll likely be losing a significant portion of our urban forest over the next five years.  And while that might just strike us as just another data point, much like the figure “400ppm”, namely the carbon dioxide concentration milestone that we hit recently, this ash tree die off is going to have much more of an immediate effect on you personally.   And that’s because as we say here at AddATree, “less trees simply means that you will be less well”.   There is now hard data that proves that trees enhance our health in the moment and moreover, promote health across our entire lifespans.  Moreover, a recent US Forest Service study that found that in neighborhoods that were hit hard by the Emerald Ash Borer, there was a stark rise in human mortality from cardiovascular and lower respiratory disease.  In a nutshell, where the trees are dying so are the residents – and that’s you and me and our families, folks.

Perversely, our American ash trees are not alone.  In Europe, the ash trees there are also under severe threat from a dieback caused by a fungus.  Millions and millions of ash trees have died and the disease is currently wrecking new havoc on the ancient ash forests of Britain where the druids once roamed.

So what to make of all this? I personally feel a little unsettled when I think that in Norse mythology the ash tree is the Tree of Life, with its boughs leading to heaven and its roots to hell.  It is also foretold in that mythology that when the ashtree_of_life tree dies the world will end – “smoke wreathes up around the ash Yggdrasil, the high flames play against the heavens, the graves of the gods, of the giants and of men are swallowed up by the sea. This is Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods.”

So take a hard swallow at that – now what?  Just like in the aftermath of the Chestnut Blight and Dutch Elm Disease, we can replant – but we must do that today.  This is what gives AddATree the fire in its belly to do all that it can do to help find innovative ways to fund replanting efforts.  I invite you to join us in rebuilding our urban forest – one tree at a time.

~ Claire Woolley

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