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Author’s Note: This is the first part in a series of blog posts looking at the historical big picture of modern day urban flooding. Read this blog post why I’ve decided to take on this project. Yesterday was the 148th anniversary of Arbor Day and I figure there’s no better time to kick this off. Happy belated Arbor Day!

If dogs are man’s best friend, trees are that neglected friend who’s always there to bail you out of jam when you are most in need.

You know that friend I’m talking about. That one that may not always be at the center of your weekend plans come Thursday, but when the “you-know-what” hits the fan, you can count on them being there for you. You can give them a call anytime and they always seem to show up at the drop of a hat. Even though you might haven’t always been as equal of a friend in return.

The tree is that kind of friend to man. The one who is always there to spring us out of a jam, help us out with a ride to a doctor’s appointment, or will come over at moments notice to help jump start our dead car battery on a brutal winter morning. Stupid piece of junk car!

Dogs get all the glory because they are just so friendly and happy all the time. Dogs are Mr. Popular-captain-of-the-football-team of man’s friends. Trees, on the other hand, are that kinda-dorky-awkward-boring-shy-but-sweet-friend that man takes for granted. Not nearly as cool or popular as these dogs over here.

Hey dogs, whatcha doin this Friday night?

We barely even notice our tree friends. Rarely even give them much thought really. We don’t even nod as we pass them by in the rush of our daily lives. Dogs, on the other hand, I’ll take a minute out of my day every single time for a quick pat on the head no matter how busy I am! Look at its wagging little tail… So cute.

Most times we forget trees are even living, breathing (ok, respirating) creatures. But you know what? They are always there for us. Sturdy, steady, and consistent. Never asking for anything in return. Always generally quiet and of very little words. Always there for you if you need a shoulder to lean on and listen. Or a cool and refreshing place to sit down next to so that we can escape the summer heat of our daily lives. Or a friend willing to sacrifice themselves to warm you up next to a fire on a chilly autumn night.

Trees are nothing short of amazing specimens, but they don’t brag about it one bit. They’re humble. They are the largest living creatures on Earth: General Sherman in California. They are the oldest living creatures on Earth: 80,000 year old Pando Aspen grove in Utah or the 4,000+ year old bristle cone pine trees of California, Nevada, and Utah.

Pando Aspen Grove Organism

Nothing on Earth matches their ancient wisdom and usefulness to the rest of its living creatures. They’ve seen it all and been through it all. In a seemingly infinite universe, we are sitting on the only known spherical object harboring intelligent life, and it is entirely possible only because of trees.

Trees do the work of the world. They are the axle that turns the wheel of the Earth’s great cycles. Cycles that if they did not exist, we humans would be extinct. As in, not here, gone, entirely wiped off the face of the Earth. Without trees we wouldn’t have an atmosphere with air to breathe and without trees we wouldn’t have water to drink. Trees and man are linked root and hand. Without each other, we would not exist. It’s just that simple.

Now for some science…

Here’s how the carbon cycle works:

Such a terrific animation here by the National Park Service:

Explanation: The hollow/white circles represent carbon dioxide, the blue circles represent water, and yellow circles represent energy from the sun. Notice how the circles all collide at the top of the tree resulting in green dots/carbon matter (leaves) which eventually fall back to ground turning into soil (biomass).

Here’s how the water cycle works:

Notice the common denominator in each of the cycles? Trees. Ok, smart guy, water and the sun, too. But we’re here today to talk about trees.

The other important factor in each cycle is human activity. Man is altering the carbon cycle by burning oil, natural gas, and coal. Man is altering the water cycle by cutting trees down.

Over the next several blog posts, I’m going to write about the history of the modern civilization and how humans have impacted the water cycle and have increased urban flooding by pushing around our neglected friends to the limit. We are now seeing the negative impacts of increased urban flooding in part due to what has become an abusive one sided relationship between man and trees.

We all need to be more aware of our neglected tree friends and how important they are to reducing flooding.

I’m here to tell that story and why you should care more about trees, gosh darnit.

Stay tuned to the blog for Rise and Fall of the Trees Part 2!

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