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Can Trees Save Us?

Author: Karen Dombrowski-Sobel

While on a yearlong road trip from New York through the country, I found myself quite upset by the way trees were being mistreated everywhere, which precipitated my need to write “Trees Speak, Healing Ourselves and Our Planet”. This article is made up of excerpts from the book.

While many people regard trees as mere commodities, it is time to take a closer look with gratitude for all that trees give to us. Trees are the oldest, largest and most important natural resource we have. Though power and greed have motivated many of the decisions that affect the lives of these beautiful creatures, there are things we can all do to make this planet a greener one. In fact, a declaration announced as part of a UN summit on climate change in NY stated: “Forests represent one of the largest, most cost-effective climate solutions available today.”

What they do:

Trees-speak-Karen-Dombrowski-Sobel-3The average tree can absorb up to 48 pounds of carbon dioxide every year, reducing many of our pollutants. Trees cleanse the air by intercepting airborne particles, reducing heat, and absorbing such pollutants as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Trees remove this air pollution by lowering air temperature through respiration and by retaining particulates.

This is why trees are considered the “LUNGS” of the planet. It is the CO2 (carbon dioxide) that is one of the main causes of the greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide emitted from cars and factories has built up a heat blanket around the Earth. Typically, CO2 is absorbed in natural carbon sinks. However, we have produced more than can naturally be absorbed, so the globe has heated up one degree Fahrenheit over the last century, and it’s heating up more in the last few decades. One degree doesn’t sound like much, but keep in mind that the last ice age, which covered Canada and the northern US in ice was only a nine degree difference from modern temperatures. Mature trees can absorb roughly 48 pounds of CO2 a year. The tree in turn releases enough oxygen each year to sustain two human beings. Trees remove 100 to 120 billion tons of carbon each year from man-made sources such as cars, trains, planes, etc.

Trees-speak-Karen-Dombrowski-Sobel-2Trees fight erosion, conserve rainwater and reduce water runoff and sediment deposits after storms. A large tree can lift up to 100 gallons of water out of the ground in one day and discharge it into the air. Trees can either store harmful pollutants or actually change the pollutant into less harmful forms. Trees filter sewage and farm chemicals, reduce the effects of animal wastes, clean roadside spills and clean water runoff into streams.

It has recently been found that trees actually “fix” themselves and take the amount of nitrogen from the air necessary to keep a healthy balance in the soil. This author believes the trees are already healing the planet for us.

Phytoremediation is a term used to describe the process by which trees absorb toxins, chemicals and other dangerous pollutants that have entered the soil. In Latin, Phyto means “plant” and remedium means to “restore balance”. Yes, plants actually help to remove the toxins from our soil, air and water.

All living things are a part of the ecosystem, and they rely on all of the other plants and animals that are also a part of it. We need to become more conscious of all of the decisions we make regarding our effect on the planet. The purchases we make have a very big impact on the health of the trees, and on the Earth in general. We need to become more aware of the toxins and plastics that we have produced for our packaging and product needs.

Trees-speak-Karen-Dombrowski-Sobel-1It is good to note that as the world changes, everything adapts the best it can to the changes. Trees seem to play a big role in the natural adaptation of those changes. In their infinite natural wisdom, trees are working to make the changes better for all living things.

I am hoping to create an awareness and appreciation for trees that will help not only to prevent their destruction but also to educate the average individual to become proactive by planting and growing new trees and caring for existing ones. This caring includes making some changes in our lifestyles so that we can conserve energy, and make conscious choices about our consumption to keep this planet as green or greener than it is.


“Trees Speak” is available at the Buffalo History Museum shop, at, and as an ebook on

The photograph of the tree in Delaware Park:

This beautiful Great Oak tree survived the early snowstorm of October, 2006 in Buffalo, NY. As many as 90 percent of the city’s trees were estimated to be damaged, including many in the city’s cherished parks and parkways. Situated in Buffalo’s Delaware Park, which was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, this tree has become rare especially for its size. It is a wonderful example of the beauty added to our urban parks by trees. Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks Conservancy is now planting many new trees to keep the park as beautiful as when it was designed.


Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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