Opinion Extra

Pulling: Confessions of a tree hugger

I'm a tree hugger. I haven't hugged too many trees, but the ones I've hugged were pretty good trees. I hear that there are some folks who think tree hugging is for sissies. That doesn't bother me, I'm proud to be a tree hugger, the fact is I feel sorry for the anti-tree huggers.

I heard that my distant European ancestors worshipped trees. That might be carrying things a little too far, but for sure we don't give trees the credit they deserve. Can you imagine what the world would be like without trees? As I was thinking about the magnificent forests we're blessed with in South Carolina, and how we take this blessing for granted, and how the soon we will be doubly blessed by the forests' incredible display of color, I stated adding up all the things trees do. I know I just scratched the surface.

Most of us keep warm and dry in houses made of wood. We use wood to chase away winter in our fire places. You can build houses out of sod or stone, even ice, but you need wood lodge poles to build a teepee. Who wants to live in a sod house if they don't have to? We sit on wood chairs at wood tables and desks, and sleep in wood beds. Of course, you can make most of this stuff out of metal, but it doesn't have the warmth or beauty of wood. Probably early humans survived in shelters made of branches and mud. Also if you are serious about barbecue, you use real charcoal.

Trees are the main thing that makes top soil. Without top soil, there wouldn't be as much food, which means there wouldn't be as many people to make fun of tree huggers. (I could live with that.) Trees are the source of poems, which is nice. Trees provide shade, and they look pretty in the fall.

Trees do most of the planet's work of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis uses sunlight and carbon to make plant material. Trees are an absolutely essential way to sequester carbon, which we don't need more of in the atmosphere. Trees break down carbon dioxide and generate oxygen, which even anti-tree huggers need to breathe.

Trees stabilize the climate of the earth. Without trees, there would be extreme daily fluctuations in temperature. Without trees, rainwater would all run off. We wouldn't have springs, which lead to creeks, which make streams and rivers. That would mean the fishing would be no good and you couldn't water ski, or take back-country canoe trips. Trees keep the waterways free of mud. Trees help keep the waterways from flooding.

Trees make food. You couldn't have apple pie without trees. There must be hundreds of things to eat from trees. I couldn't imagine a world without pomegranates. There are all those fruits and all kinds of nuts. Trees make baskets to put the food in. Trees make violins and rocking chairs and baseball bats. Without trees, we couldn't make the rail bed for our railroads. We may not have discovered America if we didn't have wood and tree sap to make sailing ships.

Can you imagine Christmas without Christmas trees? Cedar chests were used to save woolen clothing from the moths. We make the best whisky in oak barrels. The same is true for many wines. Without trees, we wouldn't have squirrels. Well, I could probably live without squirrels; no offense to squirrel lovers. Most of the birds would be gone, and so would most monkeys.

Trees are rather amazing things. The actually have a sort of lung that's part of their respiratory function. Trees can communicate with each other by chemical signals. Trees can mount chemical defenses against insects and diseases. Trees make food out of sunlight, which humans have never learned to do. Trees also learned how to eat dirt and not get sick.

Trees figured out that leaves were a bad thing to have when it snowed. They can tell when winter is coming, so they take all the nutrients out of their leaves, throw the leaves away, store the nutrients underground for the winter. Then when spring comes, they bring up the nutrients from underground and make new leaves.

Some trees live a very long time; in fact, I think a tree is the oldest living thing on earth. Trees are the tallest living things on earth. Trees get along with each other, which humans certainly don't.

It's about time us humans gave trees the credit they deserve. We owe the trees a great deal, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for taking trees for granted.

If you're open to suggestions, why don't you hug a tree and see how good it is. You can do it when no one is watching. It will just be between you and the tree. If you decide to become one of us, you can always stay in the closet. I certainly won't tell.