In Praise of Trees

It was with great sadness that I watched the demolition of nearly 60 mature pine trees on Hurontario Street. My first reaction was to photograph the destruction and send it with my regrets to the local media.

But I decided to talk to Deb Docherty ( who is the most environmentally aware councillor ) She agreed to meet me in person to explain the reasons for the Town’s decision.

The discussion we had, turned out to be quite productive. There were many factors involved, primarily the developer of a new sub-division wanted good access which would entail the installation of a new set of traffic lights, which meant the involvement of Hydro, gas, water and possibly cable companies. Obviously environmental issues are not a high priority for them. Deb said it was the most difficult decision she has ever had to make, however the town have agreed to plant 2 saplings for each tree, to eventually match the same carbon capture, which in this case, would have been 90 tons of GHG. I had to laugh, that will take at least 25yrs, and most of the councillors will have passed away!

She did tell me that the Town has a comprehensive tree plan and that they are aware of the carbon count for all the trees on public lands, but that most of the mature trees that needed to be protected, are on the lands of private properties.

We then discussed solutions that might remedy this situation. We discussed the merits of TREETRUST which the TBM have just partnered with, to preserve the mature trees in their municipality. The main drawback of this organization is it’s reliance on donor funds, which in the current climate crisis, would be far too slow to achieve results. It was at this stage that I suggested we try to encourage home owners to work together with the Town on some form of census as part of a Carbon Tree Credit scheme. This would give the Town an accurate assessment of the area’s entire carbon catchment. I only floated this idea to gauge what the Council’s reaction might be, in the hope that it might gather momentum and we could work together on the details.

Joining CCAT, has been a lifeline, I have always been an environmentalist in my creative work, I have always struggled to lower my impact within a society whose lifestyles choices are not sustainable. Having done a carbon assessment I could not believe that my damage to the environment was 20 tons of carbon emissions per year. So began my assault to lower my footprint. My only car is now a secondhand hybrid, I use my bike as much as possible, I changed over to LED lights, I tore out the old heating system and installed an on demand heating Combi system with 92% efficiency, I took shorter showers and no baths. I changed my diet, little or no, beef or lamb. Holidays are down to one a year, definitely no cruise ships and shorter air flights. I took the carbon footprint test again it now stands at 9.5 tons. These changes came with the added bonus of lowering my running costs!

This is a huge achievement, but the problem still remains, I have no where else to cut. How can I match the promised cuts that were agreed upon at the Paris summit! I am sitting on my deck with a beer, mulling over the problem, when I remember my discussion with Deb about mature trees. I only have an average size Town lot, but someone, years ago was smart enough to plant lots and lots of trees. Based on the Tree Credit idea, I started counting how many mature trees do I have, how old, how high, how much canopy of carbon capture. It turns out I have over 5 to 5.5 tons of carbon capture, all of a sudden my footprint has lowered to 4 tons. I’m on target to help solve the environmental crisis. I celebrate with another beer.

Trees have to be part of the solution, with the help and guidance from CCAT and the support of the Town, if we all get on board, back the tree census idea we could become a truly green  community.

John Capon
Associate CCAT lead team