Wednesday, April 24, 2024

A red maple is planted Friday in Green Rose Heritage Park in The Port neighborhood. (Photo: Quinton Zondervan)

Last Friday was Arbor Day, and I had the opportunity to participate in a tree planting ceremony in my neighborhood at Green Rose Heritage Park, along with a group of elementary school students from the nearby Fletcher Maynard Academy.

When it was my turn to say a few words, I asked the kids what we could do to protect the trees.

“Give them water,” one little girl answered.

“Don’t pollute them,” another young sage offered.

These kids knew their trees! One little boy in the back was really eager to answer, so I pointed to him.

“Don’t cut them down!” he offered.

“Yes, don’t cut them down,” I agreed, looking around the crowd to see all the adults nodding vigorously in agreement. I wondered how many were aware of the recent study showing Cambridge lost nearly 7 percent of its tree canopy between 2009 and 2014 – a carnage that has continued, if not intensified.

Meanwhile, we planted one little red maple in a park that could easily hold another dozen or more additional trees along the edge, without impinging on the large field at its center. We just don’t seem to prioritize our trees, cutting them down at a moment’s notice whenever they get in the way of other plans.

Will we listen to our children? Will we recognize that their survival in the age of climate change depends on our ability to truly understand the value of trees? Heat is well understood to be the No. 1 weather-related killer in the United States. And trees provide us with significant protection against the threat of the urban heat island effect.

We need to become better tree stewards. We owe it to our children to make this the year we turn around the horrifying trend of tree destruction, so that they will grow up enjoying a thriving urban forest that will nurture and protect them for their entire lives.

Quinton Zondervan is a city councillor and climate activist.