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Guest opinion by Joanna Clark and Judith Anderson
Featured photo: Courtesy of the South Orange County Chapter of Citizen’s Climate Education and Lobby
In September 2021, dozens of news media outlets began reporting the changing climate was the greatest threat to public health. This was the first time that so many publications came together to issue a joint statement to world leaders, underscoring the severity of our situation.
The editors of more than 230 scientific and medical journals wrote, “Global warming is affecting people’s health—and world leaders need to address the climate crisis now, as it can’t wait until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.”
“The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C and to restore nature,” the journals warned.
We have known for some time that trees absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the atmosphere in exchange. Tree cover in the United States is declining at about 175,000 acres per year. This loss of tree cover contributes to more adverse climate patterns, sea-level rise, and other problems that become catastrophic over time — and that time is now.
According to the journals, “One acre of trees annually consumes the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to that produced by driving an average car for 26,000 miles. That same acre of trees also produces enough oxygen for 18 people to breathe for a year.”
As our awareness of the threat an altered climate poses to our future has grown, we have begun to respond by planting trees in the areas we have cleared.
In the Midwest, Iowa’s “The Growing Futures” program has brought together small groups of high school students to receive hands-on instruction in tree planting and maintenance while actively reforesting the communities where they live and learning about careers in forestry.
Hawaii’s “Re-tree Hawaii” program’s goal is to plant sufficient trees throughout the state to increase oxygen levels, absorb greenhouse gases, and reduce sea-level rise. In completing its mission, “Re-tree Hawaii” is partnering with schools and conservation groups throughout the state.
Here in Southern California, our South Orange County Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Education and Lobby is also planting trees in our community this spring.
On February 14, a Toyon tree was donated by Citizens’ Climate members and planted in Reata Park with assistance from the San Juan Capistrano city staff. On April 22, Earth Day, and April 29, Arbor Day, tree planting in San Clemente will be sponsored by Citizens’ Climate Education.
Would you like to join our Climate Action group outdoors and be part of a positive community effort?
For more information, please stop by the CCE/CCL table at the San Clemente Garden Club’s Garden Fest at the San Clemente Community Center on Saturday, April 9, from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., and meet some local members.
You can also contact Larry Kramer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Donna Vidrine at email@example.com.
Joanna Clark and Judith Anderson are both members of the South Orange County Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Education and Lobby, and 30-plus year residents of San Juan Capistrano.