Chicago must make it a priority to plant and protect more trees

Stopping healthy trees from being removed is only a small, common sense step. We need to plant new trees in every available public space and make sure these trees reach maturity to provide environmental and social benefits.

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Volunteers demonstrate how to plant a tree during a tree planting ceremony to celebrate Shriners Children’s Chicago hospital’s 100th anniversary outside the hospital, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. Volunteers who work in the hospital and in partner companies like One Tree Planted, DocuSign, Mars Candy and the Institute of Museum and Library Services planted 15 trees under the guidance of staff of the Chicago Region Trees Initiative. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Volunteers demonstrate how to plant a tree during a tree planting ceremony to celebrate Shriners Children’s Chicago hospital’s 100th anniversary outside the hospital, Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The recent Sun-Times editorial, “Chicago, Don’t let healthy trees be cut down without good reason,” was correct in identifying trees as a major urban benefit. Chicago is investing heavily in planting new trees in the public way for all the reasons mentioned, including the vitally important role that trees play in mitigating the impacts of climate change. Chicago plans to plant 75,000 trees in the next five years as part of its Climate Action Plan.

But the editorial didn’t go far enough. Stopping healthy trees from being removed is only a small, common-sense step. We need to plant new trees in every available public space. More importantly, we must make sure these trees reach the maturity needed to provide their environmental and social benefits, while making every effort to keep the trees we have.

There are formidable deterrents. Diseases and pests are wreaking havoc on current populations, and other city practices, such as installing new water and sewer lines, can take down whole streets of mature trees. Trees are also killed by careless (and illegal) demolition and construction practices.

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Chicago needs to put a priority on protecting trees. This includes using all available tools. For example, when concerned neighbors in Lake View demanded alternatives to removing mature trees for new water lines, their trees were saved by identifying alternative digging sites and using new technologies such as resin-coated pipe liners for drains.

Everyone needs to understand that trees are precious resources and can do more social good than even some members of the public.

Marjorie Isaacson, West Town

Oil industry can’t be trusted

In a letter to the editor on Aug. 1, James R. Watson, the executive director of the American Petroleum Institute, tells us that “CO2 pipelines are proven to work and offer an invaluable lifeline to lower industrial carbon emissions. We should prioritize our future and embrace them now.”

The API represents and lobbies for the oil industry, which knew as early as the 1960s what the burning of fossil fuels would do to the climate, but spent decades lying to Congress, to the media and to the American people about the threat of climate change. It cast doubt on the consensus of climate scientists, who had predicted the climate disasters that we are now witnessing across the globe.

PBS “Frontline” aired a three-part documentary series titled “The Power of Big Oil: Denial, Doubt, Delay,” which detailed how investigators have discovered numerous documents in the files of large oil companies clearly showing that their own physicists understood and predicted explicitly that the burning of their products would cause the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere, with disastrous consequences for the human race. The documentary showed how the companies developed sophisticated marketing techniques to resist government action on climate for decades. They did that to protect their profits.

When we evaluate carbon capture and storage, and carbon dioxide pipelines, to get a clear picture of what their impact and safety will be in Illinois, I, for one, will not take advice from the API.

Mary Shesgreen, Elgin

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