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Natural Awakenings Chicago North & North Shore

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12 Chicago North & North Shore SUBSCRIPTIONS

Growing up in the city in the 1970s, we had backyard trees and parkway trees and I lived them all. Early on, I realized the backyard magnolia and apple trees were under out con- trol, but the elms on the parkway were not. The men in the blue Streets & Sanitation trucks occ

Jim Irwin and Peggy Malecki G

rowing up in the city in the 1970s, we had backyard trees and parkway trees, and I loved them all. Early on, I realized the backyard magnolia and apple trees were under our control, but the elms on the parkway were not.

The men in the blue Streets & Sanitation trucks occasionally came and removed some of my beloved trees with no advance notice. Dutch Elm disease was rampant, and I learned why planting the same kind of

tree, block after block, could turn one year’s arching canopy into the next year’s barren, open space. Even at that young age, the sadness and loss I felt watching our once-living trees be eaten by the chipper instilled in me a deep respect for the way we should honor and treat our urban forests. Maintaining this precious resource is key to quality of life in our Chicago met-

ro area. According to the nonprofit American Forests (, urban forests are crucial to making cities livable. Trees help purify the air we breathe and remove nearly 800,000 tons of air pollution from the atmosphere every year. Trees also help manage urban water and reduce energy demand via their cooling shade. In addition, they help cities to mitigate and adapt to climate change, slow- ing soil erosion and reducing the Heat Island Effect. Unfortunately, a 2012 study released by the journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening indicates we are actu- ally losing more then 4 million trees each year from our cities. (One of many links to this study is on local radio/TV host Mike Nowak’s ( website at

Our area is again faced with infestations such as the emerald ash borer that

are devastating the urban forest, and no “cure” is available to stop the pest. In the 1980s, many communities turned to fast-growing replacement trees planted in large numbers to fill the empty space. Lack of tree variety is causing the same problem today, and in the tough economy, municipalities no longer have the funds to replant with more diverse species. Enter groups like newly formed AddATree (, that are finding innovative ways to help local governments get the money needed to replant through crowdfunding campaigns and other means. We encourage you to take ownership of the care of your trees this April Earth Month, including the mature ones that most tend to overlook. Water, air, food and root quality are things every homeowner can help to control. Consult a local tree expert before trimming or removing—many damaged trees can be saved through cabling and other means. Check out the resources available through the Morton Arboretum ( and Chicago Botanic Garden ( Also, visit your local nursery to find the correct species for your space before you plant.

And don’t forget to teach the next generation to love our trees by bringing them to one of the local Earth and Arbor Day celebrations and tree-planting days. Visit the calendar in this month’s issue for a great list of events.

Make every day an Earth Day!

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