MIKE KEELER: You Own Some Trees

Mike Keeler

There are trees out there with YOUR name on them. 53 trees, more or less.

Since the 1960’s, the folks at NASA have been providing scientists with lots of information about the condition of planet Earth. Are the icecaps melting? Is the Sahara growing? What’s going on with the rain forests?

One of the most noteworthy recipients of this research has been the science of forestry. Since trees reflect sunlight in distinct patterns, NASA scientists can get a pretty good understanding of the condition of all the Earth’s trees, whether they are part of a dense forest, or standing alone in a city park. In fact, they did an audit of the planet’s tree inventory, to set a benchmark for future research.

What did they find? Turns out that if you start with a few assumptions about tree density, and multiply by the number of hectares on the planet, you come up with an estimate of approximately 400 Billion trees. Sounds like a lot. However, if you factor in that there are approximately 7.5 Billion people on the planet, you can calculate that each one of us has ownership of about 53 trees.

(…interestingly, the number of trees on the planet seems to be increasing. A recent article in Nature suggests that while we are losing huge amounts of virgin rain forest, the loss is more than made up for by increases in new trees in North America, Europe and Asia as a result of agricultural abandonment. Now, these new trees do not provide the same biodiversity and value as mature forests, but it’s a small consolation…)

Anyway, back to YOUR trees. You get 53. That’s 53 trees with which you can hit a home run. You can frame your house, print out your proposal, or send a holiday greeting. But remember, we also need some of your trees for putting up garish billboards, for making crayons, for playing ping-pong (including the table, the paddles, and even the balls), and for flying kites. Linoleum, rubber, turpentine, and fruit pie filling are also made of trees. And if you use up more than your share of 53, none of us can play our guitar, filter our coffee, fill out the form with a #2 pencil, fumble with the chopsticks, say “paper” to the grocery bagger, or enjoy a beechwood aged Budweiser.

You get 53 trees, and no more. So please use them carefully.

WAIT! Hold on there. Do you own a shovel?

Mike Keeler