Every month, Chicago Wilderness focuses on a different environmental theme. July’s focal point is climate action, so we’ve invited alliance members to share what they’re doing to mitigate or adapt to our changing climate. Learn more about AddATree and the ways you can have an impact on a global issue.
By Claire Woolley, Founder & CEO, AddATree
Much has been written about climate change and the projected effects on our day-to-day lives. This is especially true for those of us living in urban areas, and, in fact, some of the more dire projections were a key motivator for a team of us to start “AddATree” late last year.
AddATree, in a nutshell (tree puns abound, we’ve since found) is a nonprofit organization,
with Chicago Wilderness as our fiscal sponsor, that is using innovative ways to fund the planting of urban trees, including crowdfunding, conducting ‘paperless engagement campaigns’ for businesses and aggregating urban tree projects for carbon offsets and other ecosystem services payments. One of AddATree’s key tenets is that we want to start an urban tree planting movement by providing supporters, both individuals and corporate, with ways to engage and take action for healthy, livable cities. This is all underpinned by our strategies that provide choice, transparency and recognition. Moreover, we founded AddATree because we believe that planting urban trees is one of the simplest things that we can do to grow a climate-resilient city.
Simply, our goal is to make impact, one tree at a time. Recently, the team at AddATree was discussing climate change after the 400PPM carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere milestone was reached a few weeks ago. We wondered why, apart from a small social media flurry, this sobering news didn’t get much widespread attention. Perhaps, we concluded, it was because that we, as typical human beings, suffer from biases that cloud our judgment – the so-called optimism bias that causes a person to believe that they are less at risk of experiencing a negative event compared to others. Smokers can be a classic example of this. So in terms of a changing climate, while we know that other places like Bangladesh and the Maldives are going to severely affected by the rising seas, we think that it’s going to happen to them and not us. But quite apart from that, a changing climate means much more than rising seas. It is also going to severely affect our urban trees, and that, in turn, is 100% certain to affect our lives in our cities.
Public budgets can’t keep up with the now-increased removal rates, let alone the replanting – and less trees in our cities, with all the health, social and psychological benefits they provide, mean that we all personally will be less well. To get a sense of the wide-reaching health consequences alone, we recommend the recent US Forest Service study The Relationship Between Trees and Human Health: Evidence from the Spread of the Emerald Ash Borer. The study suggests that the loss of trees to the Emerald Ash Borer increased human mortality related to cardiovascular and lower respiratory tract illness. This finding adds to the growing evidence that the natural environment, and in particular urban trees, provide major public health benefits, all of which will be put under strain with a changing climate.