Saturday, 26 July 2014

Impossible things that trees do

My city - Canberra - has been celebrating Tree Week in the lead up to National Tree Day on Sunday 27th July, 2014. I am not sure who decides on these national celebration dates, but I am happy that trees have their own day.

As part of Tree Week, I was invited to make a presentation during celebrations at the National Arboretum of Canberra, and thought I would let the trees themselves show off - demonstrating things they do using only the energy from the sunlight that falls on them that humans can only wonder at. I certainly had fun with that presentation, but I may have gone just a little far with my descriptions of the marvels of trees if the newspaper reports are anything to go by - awed gasps and impassioned sermons?! 

One of the examples I provided was about the (theoretical) ability of trees to grow almost as tall as the Black Mountain Tower (an icon in Canberra) while using only sunlight and simultaneously sequestering over 15000 t of CO2. Humans on the other hand needed over 350 t of reinforcing steel, 1930 t of concrete and emitted over 1700 t of CO2 to build their tower (admittedly in a much shorter time than my hypothetical tree!). While these boring numbers might not have generated awed gasps, the accompanying video footage certainly did -  you can feel both the height that the biggest currently standing trees can get to and see the Tower and its role in the city.

So, particularly on National Tree Day, don't just walk past a tree as if it is just a common ordinary sort of thing - it produces material that is stronger than steel, can pump water from 400 feet below the ground or to 400 feet above the ground, maintain hundreds or thousands of other living species in their crowns and roots, and make humans feel safer and healthier just by looking at them. They can do all these things with air, water and sunlight. Yeah trees! 


  1. Yay trees, and people who preach about them! You help us value something we otherwise might walk past and treat as part of the furniture. XO JJ

    1. Funny you should mention furniture ...recent research indicates that having wooden furniture like tables, cupboards and chairs as opposed to plastic, steel and glass lowers human stress levels. What will trees do for us next?

  2. Keep up your creative ways to help we mortals see appreciate the staggering things that trees can do without a big song and dance ! Loved the "ride" in your quadcopter.