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Human mortality and trees

June 15, 2018
By JOYCE COMINGORE - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

I'm sure I've driven home the fact - we need trees for the oxygen they provide and the carbon dioxide they absorb. They provide so much more - increased value in our landscaped homes, cooler air, good health and a stress-free life. We respond better to our surroundings when we have trees around us.

Roger Ulrich's classic study in 1984 showed patients recovering from gall bladder surgery more rapidly when they had a window in their recovery room that looked out onto nature, trees and plants. The presence of parks and forests in our neighborhoods acts as a buffer to stress. The relationship between trees and human health is very strong.

On the other hand, how many trees hurt or kill people by falling on them? Probably 50 or more a year worldwide. So, what happens when a tiny insect, the emerald ash borer beetle, devastates large tree stands? The first time this blight was detected, happened in Canton, Ohio, in 2002. It spread rapidly throughout Ohio, then to Minnesota, Ontario and places where infested trees had been shipped. The immediate impact was, the dead trees fell on houses, cars and people. Four years after becoming infested, the trees died, they disappeared.

Something else happened that was not immediately detected - the U.S. Forest Service found increased mortality rates in counties affected by the ash borer. More people were dying of cardiovascular and lower respiratory tract illness, the first and third most common causes of death in the U.S. They then realized the strength of the relationship between trees and human health. Trees relieve stress, create

healthier atmospheres and can save on pollution-related care costs.

The natural world has a direct and positive impact on our well being. More than elevating our mood, the presence of parks and forests near our homes can not only buffer our moods physically, but mentally. Lack of trees, eliminating our source of oxygen and air pollutant filters, has been shown to affect our health, physically and mentally.

It is one thing to be personally attacked by a falling tree, and another to lose our source of oxygen and air pollution filter.

Hurricane season is upon us; the need to eliminate dead wood that might fly at us in strong winds is paramount. We also need to eliminate standing water to rid ourselves of those pesky irritants, the mosquitoes. Living in Florida has its perils as well as perks. On land and waters edge, beware of alligators. In the ocean waters, sharks are lurking. Not to be neurotic about living in paradise, but it does take blissful ignorance or cautious living to survive here.

Trees do help in ridding us of negative thoughts and emotions. Just don't dwell on the negativity, accentuate the positive. Trees help eliminate stress and anxiety, reducing our anger and sadness. In this day and age, suicides have become a stalking presence. If we could stop dwelling on what we lack, and try to help others, our lives would matter so much more.

Did you ever read Maurice Sendak's book, "Where The Wild Things Are," written in 1963, to your children? Sendack has been called the Picasso of children's literature, godfather to generations of readers; and he loved sauntering through woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. Joseph Campbell told Bill Moyers, "One of the great moments in literature is the scene in 'Where The Wild Things Are,' where Max comes to where the wild things are, and they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws till Max said, 'Be Still.' He tamed them with the magic trick of staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once. And they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all and made him king of all wild things."

That is the moment when man tames his own demons, he becomes king of himself, if not the world. We all need a walk in the woods, inhaling the ozone ions. Henry David Thoreau, writing in "The Atlantic" in June 1862, said, "I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least - and it is commonly more than that - sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements."

A cure for what ails us. (the early-take time to smell the roses)

My favorite poem is "Trees" by Joyce Kilmer, written in 1913. It soothes me almost as much as a walk amongst them.


"I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth's sweet flowing breast.

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree."

Thank a tree personally. It will help your health.

Joyce Comingore is a Master Gardener, hibiscus enthusiast and member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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