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Letter: To improve quality of life, keep our trees and plant more

Doubling our tree canopy would provide increased health benefits for many

To improve quality of life, keep our trees and plant more

It is a loss to all of us when healthy trees are cut down.

Trees are so essential to improving our quality of life during these challenging times that we should be figuring out how to double the numbers of large, healthy trees in our region — not considering more reasons to cut them down.

Mature trees are among the best tools we have to mitigate climate warming. Studies show larger trees sequester more carbon dioxide than smaller, younger trees do.

They also save lives by cooling our neighbourhoods and our region during extreme heat. A UBC professor recently said trees are “the best and the cheapest way to cool whole neighbourhoods as well as individual homes.”

Treed areas are far cooler than treeless, paved areas — by up to 8 C during the day. Their shade keeps pavement and cement cooler. Those surfaces then release less heat at night, so even nighttime temperatures are reduced.

Trees also cool in two other ways — their height increases airflow, and they release water from their leaves, called evapotranspiration.

Trees improve air quality — important in this region, where inversion layers can hold a lot of smoke and air pollution in the valley. Asthma, allergies, lung problems, strokes and increased levels of heart problems can be caused or worsened by air pollution. They do this by absorbing gases and by capturing particles on their leaves and trunks. They also produce oxygen.

Doubling our tree canopy would provide increased health benefits for many. Studies show that people living in well-treed neighbourhoods are healthier both mentally and physically.

Removing large trees should only be a last option after all others have been exhausted. Trees take decades to grow. Climate scientists are saying we don’t have decades. Let’s keep our trees and plant more, for everyone’s benefit and for future generations.

Grace Golightly

North Cowichan

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