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Much more than green things that stand in the way, trees look beautiful, make half the air we breathe, and are vital for human physical and mental health.

While tree-huggers continue to be denigrated, and industries that destroy trees continue to be subsidised by governments and protected by courts, particularly in Australia, evidence has been quietly accumulating to show that trees are far more important than most people realise.

In cities, trees reduce crime, help with human stress and cool the air, as well as mitigating greenhouse gases.

Around the world, trees provide habitat for countless creatures, attract rain, share information and nutrients with fungi beneath the ground (and other trees), provide food, scents and visual beauty, and that’s just the start.

Photo David Lowe

Tree psychology

In terms of mental health, just being around trees has been shown to relieve symptoms of ADHD in children, increase positive emotions and academic outcomes in university students, improve self-discipline, and help humans recover from surgery faster.

Indeed, disconnection from nature, particularly trees, increasingly seems to lie at the heart of many human psychological problems. This is not surprising, since trees are where we started, and where many children who have the chance instinctively return to climb, if their parents let them.

While big trees bring the greatest benefits, even small indoor plants have been shown to improve concentration and air quality. A small pot of flowers brings measurable human benefits, as do micro-vegetable gardens.

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Plant for everyone’s health

Thinking bigger than pots, planting a tree is something almost everyone can do, if not at your own place then with your local Landcare group. There are tangible benefits for all.

With modern children spending less and less time in nature, the natural link between humans and trees is at risk of being cut, with disastrous consequences for everyone.

To find out more about how to fight this trend, and learn more about the measurable benefits of trees, check out The Children @ Nature Network.

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All green is not the same

Studies in urban areas have shown that grass doesn’t bring the same health benefits as trees. A detailed study in Sydney found that adults with 30% or more of their neighbourhood covered in tree canopy had 31% lower odds of developing fair to poor general health.

So next time you see a big tree, don’t just think about how much timber is in it, or how it’s blocking your view, or dropping leaves on your car.

Give it a hug instead, and don’t be embarrassed doing it. That tree is making you healthy.

 

David Lowe