On the subconscious level, humans have a connection with trees which seems to be in our DNA. Communities around the world, especially people who live in harsh environments seek out trees for shade, meeting places, resources etc.
Around the world, farms or homesteads will have a large spreading evergreen tree to sit under, dine under, party under, work under, read under, teach under, pray under.
The quality of any urban or wild place is to a large extent described and valued on its green cover – grass, prairie, savannah, woodland, jungle etc. Ecologists and urban planners often try to quantify the monetary value of our green spaces.
We can all google climate change, global warming etc but that is the easy stereotype writing about trees. That is where people will yawn at the same old tropes.
Our childhood will be full of tree memories, our teenage years littered with what we got up to in the local woods. Throwing crab apples at each other, climbing trees, hiding in the bracken, bird watching, using old mopeds on the common, blackberry picking, camping, hiking through wind swept woodlands to access remote Cornish beaches, cycling, muddy ponds, dog walking, scrumping, hearing owls, scout trips to new forest, Go-aping, romance, lighting fires, eating takeaways, picnicing etc etc.
I once wrote to the environment minister MP when I was at school when Greenpeace had a campaign to preserve the Ribble estuary. He wrote back not with all the scientific jargon but that he had played there when he was young and would want it preserved.
If you live in London or a flat, parks, gardens and trees are a connection to nature even if it doesn’t quite provide the excitement and diversity of an SSSi wildlife site. All the construction companies in London compete for green credentials, boasting of bio-diversity even if what they plant is only half or a quarter of the story (Where are the ponds, the marsh, the unpopular wild plants like thistle, nettle, thorny plants, the berry trees which “make too much mess”) so they only plant “clean” trees. At least they are trying and often do so with limited space. Roof Gardens or Podiums as they are called in the trade, are planted up with all manner of plants, some reverting to wildlife areas by accident due to imported weeds/vigorous wild flowers.
And so back to the title, why are trees beneficial. Trees help to cool the environment and soak up and lock up CO2. To have trees you need stable soils with other plant types adding to the green mosaic. In Africa you will often see several plant types huddling together for mutual benefit. If every human planted a tree then we would be going someway to mitigate the carnage that man is doing to the earth.
The benefit of trees in a nutshell is that they keep us environmentally safe and buffered against the elements but also satisfy our innate psychological needs.
Chairman Epsom & Ewell Tree Advisory Board
Elms over Epsom, May 2023