3 Ways That Trees Help Disaster Recovery
The following is a guest post from Abbie Eisenhart, Program Manager for the Arbor Day Community Tree Recovery program.
Every year, natural disasters strike communities across the globe. These disasters not only impact the people and the infrastructure of the affected communities but also greatly change the natural environment. The loss of trees is far more than meets the eye.
Trees play a vital role in our everyday lives. They improve the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. They also limit soil erosion and storm water runoff. But these trees are more than just an environmental necessity. They beautify our streets and shade our children. For many people, trees invoke fond childhood memories. Residents of disaster-stricken areas often talk about the real loss they feel after their trees have been destroyed.
Arbor Day Foundation created the Community Tree Recovery Program out of the great need for trees in the wake of natural disasters. These trees are a symbol of recovery to residents, and a sign that things can be restored.
Commemorating Heroic Acts
Each day, Linda Lasiter’s husky dog Bella sat underneath the shade of a tree in Linda’s yard waiting for the schoolchildren to come by. One young boy in particular loved to pet Bella through the fence before running across the street for class. When the devastating EF5 tornado tore through Moore, OK, the schoolchildren took shelter in the school’s hallways. One young girl was upset and scared, so Bella’s little friend comforted her. When the tornado hit, he laid his body over hers. This act of heroism saved the little girl’s life – while taking his.
In the aftermath of the storm, Linda gratefully received a new tree for her front yard. This new tree stands as a reminder of the heroic little boy and restored the daily ritual of children stopping by to pet Bella. This new tree was a sign of remembrance for Linda.
Symbolizing Hope and Renewal
Jeff Warren remembers the twin tornadoes that hit Pilger, NE, well. It wiped out nearly all the mature trees in his neighborhood, as well as four of his closest neighbor’s houses. When he and his wife Cathy were finally allowed back into their home, they noticed how eerily quiet it was. The birds and the squirrels who lived in those trees were gone.
Jeff can still remember the big smile on his face, the first time he heard the birds singing in the newly planted trees. Jeff said, “Trees, just like Pilger, are slow to grow. But both will come back better than ever.” These trees are a sign of a renewal for Jeff.
Preventing Erosion while Generating Income
Following Hurricane Matthew, Jean Robert Calix and Daniel Cantave began to help with tree recovery, by planting avocado trees in nurseries in Fonds Verretes, Haiti. Those trees are now benefiting the entire community by providing a way to stabilize critical slopes. They also providing food in the avocados and jobs at the nurseries for those residents.
As a part of the Community Tree Recovery program, five thousand trees including avocado, mango, lime, and other trees, were distributed to farmers in Haiti in 2018. These new trees are truly bringing recovery full-circle.
Replanting trees after disasters is about healing, recovery, and resiliency. But these trees are also making a huge difference on environmental sustainability. In the five years that Arbor Day and FedEx have worked together on Community Tree Recovery, nearly 5 million trees have been distributed to homeowners.
In addition to distributing almost 5 million trees, Arbor Day Foundation thanks the hundreds of FedEx team members who have supported Community Tree Recovery by replanting trees in the aftermath of disasters in communities including Bastrop, Colorado Springs, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, and Miami. The Community Tree Recovery program is part of the FedEx Cares Delivering for Good program.
To learn how you can get involved in restoring hope and healing in the aftermath of natural disasters, visit https://www.arborday.org/programs/community-tree-recovery/.