It is an unfortunate human tendency to recognize what is good only once it is lost. Good health is often taken for granted until it is replaced by bad health, and it is common to hear those in mourning wishing they had spent more time with their departed relative whilst they still had the opportunity.
Fortunately, Jewish tradition is abundant with techniques to increase our awareness of good fortune. For example there are blessings for waking up in the morning and for having food to eat. We recall creation through celebrating Shabbat, and we thank God for our freedom when we celebrate Pesach. And similarly we have been given a festival to remind us of the wonders of nature – Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for Trees, which falls this year on the 24th/25th January.The integrity of the natural world is dependent on much more than just trees, but trees are a major feature and indeed have become symbolic of nature. The name of my own blog “The CommonTree’ alludes to the apparent abundance of trees and the key role they play in the environment. The value of
nature and sustainability can be recognized in many different ways on Tu B’Shvat, but this year I want to bring my focus back to trees. I would encourage readers to spend some time researching the wonders and values of trees, and what we can do to show our appreciation practically. Here are a few thoughts to begin with.Trees provide oxygen, food, fuel, furniture and cloud cover, and they help maintain soil quality, protect biodiversity and absorb carbon dioxide.
- Forests have been cut down throughout history to the point where we are left with approximately one-third of the original forest area.
- Deforestation mainly occurs now in tropical and sub-tropical rainforest – among the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. A high proportion are replaced with oil palm trees. Replacing a bio-diverse rainforest with a single type of tree is devastating for the environment in many ways.
- The economic benefits of deforestation are often short-lived whereas the negative effects are more permanent.
- The Nullarbor, a 200,000 square kilometer piece of land in South Australia and Western Australia, is so named for its absence of trees (‘nullarbor’ is Latin for ‘no trees’). I find this a startling testament to the value of trees