Whispering Trees

When I think of northern Michigan, my first thought is of the trees. The smell of pine needles on a hot still summer afternoon, the incredible riot of autumn color, skinny sentinels standing guard all winter, the moment of spring giddiness when the first buds emerge. Michigan’s trees are stressed now – since the great logging era ended 100 years ago, age, disease, and climate change have decimated millions more trees, and recent trends of not re-planting what is “harvested,” have already changed the northern Michigan my niece and nephew’s children will see. Ash, Beech, Oak, Spruce and Fir are all under threat or dying from insects, fungus, or disease. Hemlock could be next.

Michigan still has 19.3 million acres of forest – that’s more than 50% of the state’s land – so these trees are critical to our identity. The diversity and mix of trees are also critical to the wildlife we have here. 

When the trees are  gone, the birds and the birdsong will be gone too. The silence will be deafening.

Plastic

Plastic bag caught up in a tree

I’ve become obsessed with a plastic bag caught in a tree near where we live. It’s a common enough sight in urban areas but I don’t think I have seen one here. Every time I drive past it, I think about how long that bag will endure.

Even if I could get my hands on it, there is no real way to get rid of that bag. It will be in a landfill, or in the lake or an ocean for enough years that it may as well be forever. My understanding from a cursory look at the research is that bags last 450 to 1,000 or more years. Burning them releases enough harmful dioxins that experts say it is better to put it into a landfill. Of course, they can be recycled. Another way of existing forever.