Dr. Seuss wrote The Lorax, the original children’s book on conservation, the same year that Greenpeace was formed. His message, cleverly told with rhymes and silly words, forewarned my generation of the consequences of overusing resources.
I wish I could say we have learned from The Lorax and saved all the Truffula trees, but old growth forests are still being logged. In fact, Kleenex brand tissues logs old growth forests, including the Boreal Forest, in order that its customers can blow their noses. Remember handkerchiefs? My dad always had one in his pocket ready for our childhood runny noses. They are softer than tissues, and old growth forests do not need to be logged in their production. Of course, alternatives to Kleenex, such as Seventh Generation Tissues, exist.
The Lorax by Dr. SeussDr. Seuss does leave us hope that we have the power to correct the environmental problems humans have created. With the last Truffula seed, "Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care. Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air. Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack. Then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back." Planting trees with your child is a wonderful activity. Every year, we manage to get leftover seedlings from tree planters. Just last week, 500 Douglas fir seedlings were left on our driveway. The US Forest Service has a policy of incinerating leftover seedlings, but if you find a kindly employee, you can receive contraband trees. Private tree planters often just toss their leftover seedlings off the side of a road, but they can give you trees without violating policy. At a cost of about $.75 a tree, it is such a waste not to plant these leftover trees. Not all species require tree guards, and I managed to score thousands of biodegradable tree guards at a local recycling center.
If you live in a city and want to plant trees, call a tree nursery and ask for a donation or purchase native species of trees. You can call the forest service and ask permission to plant, or you could find a spot on public land and plant away (not sure if this is against the law, but it is public land). In fact, why not organize a field trip for your child’s school to plant trees? When I was an elementary school teacher, we planted trees in a burn as part of our Adopt a Watershed science curriculum. The forest service assisted us and provided the trees. Returning in subsequent years to measure the trees and check for survival allowed the children to become stewards of the land. This year my daughter's school is performing The Lorax. We will be giving away tote bags made from recycled bottles filled with seedlings to the audience to encourage family tree planting expeditions.
Hope for the Future: photo courtesy of The Nature ConservancyIt is easy to despair in all the depressing news regarding global warming, and children can be especially susceptible to anxiety over environmental issues. Instead of going to see an eco-therapist, get off the couch and plant some trees with your children. It is fun to watch the trees grow along with your child’s body and mind. The redwood we planted in our yard when my daughter was four years old is definitely outgrowing her, and it will still be here when we are long gone!
In addition, planting trees is a nice way to memorialize someone who has passed on. We have planted a dogwood for every dog that has left our family. This helps our children deal with the loss and gives us a place to visit when we our missing our beloved pet. There are organizations that will plant trees for you, such as Trees for the Future, if you don’t feel like digging in the dirt. This also makes a great gift.
Although planting trees is a great family activity, it is not enough to save us from global warming. We must do more to offset our carbon emissions. Modeling green family values for our children involves making choices, in order that we leave the smallest footprint behind. Please visit Eco Child's Play to read more about When Planting Trees is Not Enough.