Trees

Among the many pieces of sheet music in the collection handed down for generations in my family is a song called “Trees”. It is a song I’ve rarely heard anyone play or sing, nor do I know if it has ever been recorded but I do know it contains some beautiful lines—

“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray
Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.”
(Joyce Kilmer)

It can be seen that this song reflects a time when western culture had a ‘God consciousness’ largely lost in 21st Century Australia, an awareness that the whole of creation shouts out the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).

What got me thinking about trees this week is an article I read about Sydney City’s program to boost the city’s urban tree canopy from 15% (42,000 trees) to 75% or one third of the city. The council seems to have become aware that the lack of shade causes higher temperatures, with ensuing lowered productivity and increased water demand, and it has been suggested that there may even be a link to higher rates of domestic violence. It is believed that more trees could ‘see summer temperatures drop by as much as 2°C, improve air quality, offset greenhouse gases and reduce pollutant levels in storm water run-off.” The shading of buildings by trees also reduces the consumption of electricity for cooling.

It seems that we are beginning to rediscovered that trees are actually very useful in a range of ways even in city environments. However we should not be surprised, because God designed trees and the clearing of forests and woodland in Australia for housing estates, and to (allegedly) maximize crop production, has cost us dearly. For example the inland tsunami that hit the Queensland city of Toowoomba a few years ago was made much worse by the tree-denuded landscape of tarmac and concrete, because trees both slow down and reduce stormwater runoff.

Christians of all people should know that we are to be good stewards of the planet (Genesis 2:15) yet so often we have seen the degradation of the environment by the allegedly ‘Christianized’ nations of the west. This is evidenced not least by our reckless clearing of forests. Trees are an essential part of God’s design of the macro-ecosystem of planet earth and we ignore and abuse them at our peril, as the treeless wastes of many recent housing developments do. Trees are indeed an amazing creation that God designed to be so useful in many ways, ways that we are apparently now beginning to more appreciate.

Rather than take trees for granted as we, allegedly intelligent, educated westerners, have done for so long, we should praise God for them, for the essential part they play in our lives, and for their wonderful design that shouts out the glory of God.

For indeed “Only God can make a tree”.

2 thoughts on “Trees

  1. As a hydrologist, I know you are right about the impact of trees, and the lack of them, on rivers and catchments. I also know they have a big effect in rural areas – windbreaks change the micro climate and can improve productivity in a paddock, they provide habitat for birds which can eat many insect pests, and other benefits.

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