Below the red-tile roofs of the Catalina Foothills, an affluent area on the north end of Tucson, Arizona, lies a blanket of desert green: spiky cacti, sword-shaped yucca leaves, and the spindly limbs of palo verde and mesquite trees. Head south into the city, and the vegetation thins. Trees are especially scarce on the south side of town, where shops and schools and housing complexes sprawl across a land encrusted in concrete. On hot summer days, you don’t just see but feel the difference. Tucson’s shadeless neighborhoods, which are predominantly low-income and Latino, soak up the heat.
In order to fulfill the ambition of the United States federal government’s REPLANT Act, the U.S. Forest Service has funds available to plant more than a billion trees in the next nine years. The problem is, there aren’t enough trees. Not only that, but U.S. tree nurseries don’t have enough variety of species necessary to meet the goal. Cities around the world are suffering from urban heat islands made unbearable by record heat waves. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air temperatures underneath trees can be as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than directly above blacktop.
After a series of winter storms pummeled California this winter, thousands of trees across the state lost their grip on the earth and crashed down into power lines, homes, and highways. Sacramento alone lost more than 1,000 trees in less than a week. Stressed by years of drought, pests and extreme weather, urban trees are in trouble. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that cities are losing some 36 million trees every year, wiped out by development, disease and, increasingly, climate stressors, like drought. In a recent study published in Nature, researchers found that more than half of urban trees in 164 cities around the world were already experiencing temperature and precipitation conditions that were beyond their limits for survival.
The plan to redevelop the tower area in time for the 2024 Olympics would have created tourist facilities near the famous landmark but also reduced traffic and increased green space. However, Parisians were concerned about the fate of trees near the tower, some of them a century or more old. “We reject the felling and endangerment of dozens of healthy trees, in particular the 200-year-old and 100-year-old trees, which really are the city’s green lungs,” a petition circulated by four environmental groups read, as France 24 reported. The plan to redevelop the area around the tower was known as the OnE Paris project, according to RFI. It would have been designed by U.S. architect Kathryn Gustafson and was championed by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo during her 2020 reelection campaign, according to The Guardian.
On August 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a petition by researchers at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) seeking federal approval to release their genetically engineered (GE) Darling 58 (D58) American chestnut tree into U.S. forests. Researchers claim the transgenic D58 tree will resist the fungal blight that, coupled with rampant overlogging, decimated the American chestnut population in the early 20th century. In fact, the GE American chestnut is a Trojan horse meant to open the doors to commercial GE trees designed for industrial plantations. The D58 would be the first GE forest tree approved in the U.S. and the first GMO intended to spread in the wild. (GE canola plants were discovered in the wild in 2010 but that was unplanned.)
Natural gas leaks from underground pipelines are killing trees in densely populated urban environments, a new study suggests, adding to concerns over such leaks fueling climate change and explosion hazards. The study, which took place in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a low-income immigrant community near Boston, also highlights the many interrelated environmental challenges in a city that faces high levels of air pollution, soaring summer temperatures and is now beset by one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the nation. Dead or dying trees were 30 times more likely to have been exposed to methane in the soil surrounding their roots than healthy trees, according to the study published last month in the journal Environmental Pollution.
Tim Brodribb has been measuring all the different ways global warming kills trees for the past 20 years. With a microphone, he says, you can hear them take their last labored breaths. During blistering heat waves and droughts, air bubbles invade their delicate, watery veins, cracking them open with an audible pop. And special cameras can film the moment their drying leaves split open in a lightning bolt pattern, disrupting photosynthesis. "We really need to be able to hear these poor trees scream. These are living things that are suffering. We need to listen to them," said Brodribb, a plant physiologist at the University of Tasmania who led a recent study that helps identify exactly when, where and how trees succumb to heat and dryness.
If you scroll through Instagram, you will see them: smiling 20-somethings with dirt under their fingernails and a freshly nestled seedling below them. #PlantATree. The idea has been trending recently, not least of all because of the fires in the Amazon. And in many ways, this is a good thing. We should be activating in response to deforestation. We should be spending more time outside, interacting with the ecosystems of which we are an inextricable part. And yes, we should be planting trees.
U.S.–In an apparent effort to allay serious public and scientific concerns about contamination threats from genetically engineered (GE) trees, on August 3rd researchers at Oregon State University claimed they had genetically engineered sterility into poplar trees. The real story of the study, however, is that the risks of genetically engineering trees are too great and can never fully be known. During the seven year field trial of GE poplars described in the study, small environmental variations resulted in significant differences between trees that had the same GE constructs and also found differences between GE trees over time. This all points to how trees cannot be reliably engineered to prevent contamination.
By Morgan Erickson-Davis for The Campaign to Stop GE Trees - Last year the world lost an area of tree cover the size of New Zealand, according to satellite data. That’s around 29.7 million hectares (297,000 square kilometers) – and was a 51 percent jump over 2015. The tree cover loss data came from the University of Maryland (UMD) and were analyzed by World Resources Institute (WRI). While the data don’t just represent deforestation (they also lump in tree plantation harvesting), the analysts attribute most of the tree cover loss to human impacts affecting forests such agriculture, logging and mining. But why the big jump in tree cover loss from 2015 to 2016? The analysis points specifically to fire as the primary culprit. The data indicate big upticks in fires around the world, both in areas where fire naturally occurs — like northern Alberta, Canada — and wetter areas of the tropics where fire is (or perhaps more accurately, used to be) a rare phenomenon. One of these latter areas is the Brazilian Amazon. Rainforest is, by definition, rainy and moist, and the Amazon rainforest is no exception. Rainforest shouldn’t burn on its own — and yet, WRI’s analysis found understory fires contributed to a tripling of tree cover loss in the Brazilian Amazon (3.3 million hectares) over that time.
By Staff of GJEP - Washington, DC — Well over a quarter of a million people and 500 organizations submitted comments yesterday rejecting the commercialization of ArborGen Inc.’s genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees, which, if approved, would be the first-ever GE forest tree approved in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed approval in April 2017, releasing a draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) for public comment. This comment period ended on 5 July. The GE eucalyptus trees are engineered to tolerate freezing temperatures in order to greatly expand their growing range. The approval of these GE trees could set a precedent for future approval of GE forest trees such as poplar and pine. In the dEIS, USDA downplayed or ignored the significant risks posed by these novel GE trees. The agency conservatively predicts commercial GE eucalyptus plantations would cover over one million acres across seven southern states—from coastal South Carolina to eastern Texas. This would have devastating consequences across this region, which is home to a number of the poorest counties in the country, as well as some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. The region is already precariously threatened by climate change and sprawl.
By Lorraine Chow for Nation of Change - The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh set a new Guinness World Record on Sunday after 1.5 million volunteers planted more than 66 million tree saplings in just 12 hours along the Narmada river. The effort bested the state of Uttar Pradesh’s previous record-breaking feat, when 800,000 participants planted 50 million trees in one day in July 2016. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, boasted the achievement: “I am extremely proud to happily share that people of Madhya Pradesh successfully planted 6.63 Crore saplings today.” One crore is 10 million. According to a press release for the occasion, the aim of the mass-planting event was to raise awareness for the nation’s “make India green again” plan. At the Paris climate conference, India pledged to increase forest cover to 95 million hectares (235 million acres) by year 2030 and is putting $6.2 billion towards the effort.
By Global Ecology Justice Project - A plan by activists to inform Andrew Baum, President and CEO of ArborGen that over 250,000 people signed letters and petitions  rejecting Genetically Engineered (GE) Trees was interrupted when police arrested the two people who intended to deliver that message. Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and Coordinator of the international Campaign to Stop Genetically Engineered Trees, Anne Petermann, and Global Justice Ecology Project’s GE Tree Campaign organizer, Ruddy Turnstone were stopped by police and arrested. The letters and petitions rejecting GE Trees and international protests mark a growing concern about the dangers of GE Trees and the threats they pose to the environment.
By Sane Energy Project - Many are familiar with the Canadian artist who stopped an oil pipeline from crossing his property by copyrighting the top 6″ of his soil. Now, an American artist has been tapped by a team of advocates hoping to do the same with the Spectra AIM (Algonquin Incremental Market) pipeline. The high-pressure AIM pipeline would transit within one hundred and five feet of the Indian Point nuclear facility. In February 2015, a group of New York State residents, responding to the abuse of eminent domain that has already been demonstrated by pipeline companies (such as Williams, the builder of the Constitution pipeline), and is threatened by Spectra in the multiple states that AIM would cross, decided to take action.