Making a Difference
By Greg Levine, Co- Executive Director & Chief Program Officer, Trees Atlanta
Growing up, I read a few books about how each of us can make a difference. My interest was much inclined to trees and animals. The Lorax and the Giving Tree focused on how “we” choose a path that can either change the world for the better or leave the world in a worse place than we received it. What I gathered is that our everyday decisions can make a difference and I continue to believe this today. I loved these two books, but honestly they left me feeling a bit of shame and guilt. The Man Who Planted Trees is a positive story of how one man can make a difference by the simple act of planting a tree. In this story a shepherd restores the land by planting acorns during and between two world wars.
Well, it’s early October, tree-planting season has begun, and it is time to do our part. Our everyday lives are very busy, full of ups and downs. Life’s challenges make many people feel they have little control in the world, but every one of us can help make a difference by planting a tree this year. Planting one tree can produce food for a caterpillar, later to become a beautiful butterfly or lunch for a fledgling robin. Every tree cleans and absorbs pollutants like ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide through leaves and intercepts particulate matter like dust, ash, and smoke. Cleaner air reduces asthma-related health issues. One ten-inch diameter tree filters 1341 gallons of water per year. It shades the streets that we walk down and protects the pedestrian from fast moving cars. Planting a tree is an easy act, an investment that we make and can watch grow with exponential returns as we get older.
The investment of planting a tree can grow beyond our lifetime, leaving a legacy for future generations. If there is no room in your yard to plant, check out your school, place of worship, street, park or even a shopping center. Atlanta’s tree canopy (currently at 48%) is shrinking, and with the greater majority of land being in private hands, each of us can help to turn this trend around.
Planting a tree is easy, you can do it every year and it will put a smile on your face, heal the heart, and make a difference. It’s a simple act that is both symbolic and an important step in making the difference that we want to see in the world. In no way is this a unique or novel action, but it is a simple one that we too often forget to appreciate or take part in. So like the shepherd, plant at least one tree every year. There are few easier ways to make Atlanta better, before you know it you will have helped to build a forest.