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  • Writer's pictureJim Pfiffer

A Letter From a Tree

J. Pfiffer, Elmira, NY

I love trees. They are pillars of strength, patience and longevity. They help clean the air and water and build our homes. When I need to ponder problems or recharge my batteries I do so beneath the peaceful shade and comfort of trees. They do so much for us. The health of Earth and our lives depend on them. That’s why I share the following letter from a tree regarding climate change.

Dear Humans,

Hot enough for you? It’s going to get worse. You’re shattering record high temperatures around the world leading to droughts, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels like never before.

Why? Because of global warming. You’re doing little to nothing to stop it. Worse, many of you insist that it doesn’t exist. Wake up and smell the pine needles.

We can help you. We’re taking in and storing the global-warming carbon that you exhale and produce by burning fossil fuels. Get this. When we die, we release much of that stored carbon back into the ever-warming atmosphere.

We’re your ticket (made of foil, of course) to helping reduce global warming.

We grow most everywhere and thrive in some of the harshest conditions on Earth. There are 60,000 species of our kind, but 30,000 of them are endangered. More than 440 of our species have fewer than 50 individuals left in the world. Yikes! That scares the leaves off of me.

You think you run the show here on Earth. You don’t. Your legacy is laughably short compared with the more than 370 million years that we’ve been around.

Life isn’t easy for us. We’re stuck where we take root. We can’t run from fires, escape gypsy moths or move to a new neighborhood when you send in the bulldozers.

We do so much for you. We produce the oxygen you breathe. Your civilizations were built with our wood for homes, businesses, furniture, boardwalks and pine coffins. We give you fruit, nuts, maple syrup, turpentine, medicines and even pine tar for your ash baseball bats. Want to hang a tire swing, build a treehouse for your kids or make a bark canoe? You need a tree.

Our roots clean your water, slow erosion and reduce flooding. We provide free windbreaks and snow fences. Our leaves filter air pollutants, provide shade and release water vapor into the air to cool hot streets and cities. We filter the air, pump nutrients into the soil and reduce noise pollution. Birds, animals and insects need us for homes, food and protection.

We helped Newton discover gravity, tested Eve’s devotion to God and gave you a diagramed framework for your family tree. Our natural beauty calms your emotions, soothes your mental health and empowers your spirit. We inspire poetry and music and happily sit still for landscape paintings. Done so for thousands of years.

If not for the “spreading chestnut tree,” where would the “village smithy” stand?

We do all this, and you repay us by polluting the Earth and doing dumb things, like cutting us down to make paper and then writing “Save the trees” on that paper. WTF?

Who the hell came up with the brilliant idea to carve your initials in our bark? And why do you guys pee on us? Do you think we like that? How would you like it, if the next time you stood next to us, we squirted sticky sap all down your pant legs?

Why the hell are you so puzzled about a tree falling in the woods and making a noise? Do you know what noise I fear the most? A chainsaw. Shakes me to my root hairs.

And don’t get me going about Christmas trees.

We’ve dealt with Dutch Elm Disease, Gypsy Moths, blight, root rot, wilt, Spotted Lantern Flies, Emerald Ash Borers and more invasive insects than you can shake a stick at.

Did you know that every 24 hours, 27,000 of my brethren are cut down to make toilet paper? That’s a real pain in my ash. (Yes, we have a sense of humor. How else do you think we deal with you?)

We’re not asking you to completely stop cutting us down. Just use common sense when doing so. Repay us by replanting us. We’re renewable. We have a saying among us: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is right now.

We can’t force you to take real actions to reduce global warming. Our only defense is paper cuts? That ain’t going to work.

We provide you with so much, improve the environment and assure the Earth’s future. Never mind hugging us. You should be taking us out to dinner.

Instead, you pollute us, mow us down and slash and burn us into oblivion, when we can do so much to help reduce climate change.

It doesn’t make sense.

You got me stumped.

Bewildering yours,

A 250-year-old oak tree


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