Urban trees
Image Source: completetrees.com

An early morning of a wet Saturday it was I have been awake for the best part of two hours. Still heavily involved in my early morning routine, which includes a long streak of physical exercise after saying the early morning prayer. Suddenly comes a blaring noise seemingly from nearby. Distinct and easy to identify, immediately I knew it is a chainsaw.

The unease created by this disturbing noise forced me to stop for a moment. I was thinking; who could be using a chainsaw so near? Who could be cutting down a tree in the neighborhood after all only a few of them still stand? Trying not to be distracted, I continued with what I was doing. However, the noise kept beaming loudly like an ‘old rickety Suzuki motorcycle’.

Naturally, I hate noise, I find more comfort in a quiet environment. I live in the suburb of the city where there is the serenity I so much love. Most times so quiet as to hear to the chirp of the birds and the low buzzing noise of trees being blown by the wind. Therefore, I am not used to noise at all.

So, at a point the blaring noise of the chainsaw was becoming unbearable, prompting me to step outside. Immediately I stepped out, I didn’t have to look too far, the noise was coming from just across the street.

Standing in shock and disbelief I looked at the tree that was being felled and the man wielding the chainsaw. For a moment in mind, it was not about the noise anymore. One of the few standing trees that had become a part of aesthetics and identity of the neighborhood is being felled. As sad as I was, I could only look on as the tree fell without being able to do anything what so ever to stop it.

Unknown to me, this will mark the beginning of what seems to have become a trend. Just about a month later, no less than five major trees around the neighborhood were cut-down.

Each time I time I pass through the points where those trees stood, I cannot help but feel sad. I wish these people understood the importance of trees in residential areas and in fact why we should have green spaces in our neighborhood, instead of cutting down the trees.

Contrary to conventional belief, trees are not meant for the forest alone. Trees around homes, along routes, and in green spaces and gardens play crucial roles.

Hence, in the age of global warming and climate change, it is important that we understand the roles trees play in making not only our homes but the planet as a whole conducive for living.

To begin with, people who live around trees are less likely to suffer from a high level of heat compared to those that don’t. This is because trees serve as canopies that reduce the penetration of sunlight and has a cooling effect on the surrounding areas.

In most urban areas today, reports of ‘suffocating’ level of heat due to high temperatures during hot seasons are common. Brick houses line streets with paved surroundings while roads are all asphalt covered. However, little or no space is available for trees not to talk of a green space.

This provides an avenue for direct sunlight penetration during the day. At night, when temperatures are expected to fall, the paved floors radiate the heat they absorb during the day, raising nighttime temperatures.

Well, I believe we all have an idea about the various problems that come severe heat.

Furthermore, one very important benefit of trees around homes that is usually overlooked is the high quality of the air they produce. In order to get their energy, trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), while giving off oxygen in a process known as photosynthesis. The oxygen they produce is what we breathe in and helps us maintain a good health.

Also, trees are known to absorb harmful air pollutants, especially the kinds found in most urban areas. This includes residues from chemicals and combustion engines such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons. In this regard, trees serve as ‘air purifiers’ and help improve air quality.

They also serve as barriers against severe winds and rainstorms, helping to minimize their impacts on homes. This alone can save homeowners thousands in damage costs. Other benefits include minimizing soil exposure to erosion, reducing chances of flood and increasing biodiversity.

On a global scale, we now know temperatures are rising, even in places not known for high temperatures. This is accompanied by permafrost melting and sea level rise, the frequency of extreme climate phenomenon among others. All these have one thing in common, they are all effects of global warming resulting from the increased emission of greenhouse gases.

Complementarily to measures taken to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, trees can help absorb a large chunk of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As a result, they serve as a ‘natural mop’ absorbing greenhouse gases and potentially stemming down global warming.

So, back to my neighborhood, I believe a good understanding of the importance of the trees around us and the harm in cutting them down is what we need. Hopefully, I can get people to understand. After all, I will not have to worry about the noise of the chainsaw alone but also the consequence of not having those trees around anymore.

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