Dr Kita Ashman, Threatened Species and Climate Adaptation Ecologist, WWF-Australia
I want you to do something for me; when you get to the end of this sentence, I want you to close your eyes and inhale fully, then exhale that breath out completely.
Did you hear your breath? The air being pulled in, that slight pause before it all rushed out?
When I'm feeling like I need these moments of just breathing, there’s one more thing that I like to do; I like to picture myself in a forest, quietly, calmly sitting at the shadowy feet of a tall mountain ash.
I like to hear my own breath and then imagine what it might sound like to hear my tree breathing. Because, like us, trees breathe.
It sounds wild, doesn’t it? But what if I told you that trees could create lollies from dew drops and sunbeams? What if I told you that each time you breathe in, you’re filling up with tree breaths, that these lolly-feasting giants are sighing your breaths into existence?
It sounds fantastical, wildly dreamt-up words that might be magical, but this magic does exist, and these things aren’t make-believe; they’re biochemical.
When we inhale, we’re taking in essential oxygen and exhaling out carbon dioxide. Fantastically, trees do the opposite: their leaves pull in carbon dioxide, water, and energy from the sun, which they turn into sugars that feed the tree. This process, known as photosynthesis, emits oxygen.
That same oxygen that minutes ago, you shut your eyes and felt rushing into your body and filling you up.
Our forests are the lungs of this planet.
This planet with more than 8 billion people on it, all taking in breaths and all exhaling out tree lollies to be.
We’ve never needed our trees more than we have now, with more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than ever before. We need every tiny seedling, every towering giant, every single leafy ally in the battle for the stability of our climate and this planet we call home.
It will be a hard-won battle, and I’m often not sure how we will get anywhere, even close to where we need to be.
But when I feel like this battle is too much, that I’m just one person, and I'll never be able to do enough, I close my eyes, and I think of just that one tree. I think of dew drops, sunbeams and lollipops. I breathe it all in, I exhale it all out.
I imagine that tree sighing me into existence, gently, quietly, urging me to keep going, to do all that I can.
Together, let’s take time out for nature this Earth Hour. Let’s appreciate all the benefits that trees provide us, and make time - whether it’s 60 seconds, 60 minutes or beyond the hour - to encourage mindfulness, improve our well-being and reflect on why nature matters so much to us.
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