by: Josh Schlossberg, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
16 February 2010
The Taking Tree
Chances are you've read Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree," the classic children's story about a boy who keeps taking from a tree - apples for eating, branches to build a house, the trunk for a boat - until there's nothing left but a stump. The message is clear: forests give us a lot, but there's such a thing as taking too much. While the story touches only on a tree's material uses, there are far more indispensable - as in can't live without - uses trees provide us with such as clean air, pure water, fertile topsoil and a livable climate.
But it's not about the use of one tree. It's about the abuse of entire forests, living ecosystems that regulate basic life processes that all human and nonhuman life depend on for survival. Flood control, erosion prevention, even the regulation of rainfall patterns depend on intact forest ecosystems. Forests store such vast quantities of carbon in trees, leaf litter and soil that NASA claims logging the world's forests to be the second largest source of human-caused global warming gases, 25-30 percent of the total according to the United Nation's Food & Agriculture Organization.
Jared Diamond's book "Collapse" documents the destruction of forests to be a leading cause of the downfall of civilizations like Easter Island. The modern day tally? Humans have consumed 60 percent of natural forests worldwide and over 95 percent in the US.