Enlightened Capitalism

Essays about how to harness people's natural desire to create wealth and improve their quality of life to solve global problems such as war and poverty.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Today I am going to talk about trees, why I love them, how to plant and water them, and lastly I am going to ask everyone to support my mission to create a greener planet Earth.

First let’s look at the advantages trees offer. Perhaps the most important advantage is oxygen. Trees produce a large portion of the oxygen we breathe. They also clean the air of many contaminants. Many forms of Cancer, Emphezema, Asthma, and other serious illnesses are caused or aggravated by poor air quality. More trees lead to better air quality and better overall health.

Another advantage trees provide is a nesting place for birds and other small animals, and food for many microorganisms and insects which play an important part in the food chain. Trees increase the biodiversity of our ecosystem, making it better able to withstand climate change and other stresses. Trees also protect the soil from erosion, and enrich it with nutrients.

Then there are the practical human benefits, which, sadly, are often overlooked by homeowners and city planners. Trees provide shade to parking spaces. If you’ve parked in the sun on a hot day, you know that the temperature inside your car can reach intolerable levels, and the parking spaces under shady trees are the first to get taken. Having shade in your driveway or in front of your house can save you thousands of dollars in depreciation over the life of your car. Having a tree shade your window can reduce your energy bills.

Shade is also important for being comfortable outdoors. The exception to the famous song “Nobody walks in El Eh” is on tree-lined streets and avenues which lead to shopping or entertainment destinations. Bicyclists and rollerbladers also cherish shady lanes to ride down. The availability of tall trees enhances the quality of life for the community. Studies have shown that trees reduce crime, and promote healing. If a hospital patient can see a tree out of the window, it significantly reduces their time in the hospital. So you see, trees can alleviate the rising cost of healthcare.

Another way trees benefit homeowners has to do with their aesthetic value. Homes with tall trees in the front and backyards sell quicker and for more money than their barren-yarded counterparts in the same neighborhood. Planting a tree can increase your home’s value by tens of thousands of dollars.

Lastly, fruit trees provide delicious, healthy, locally grown fruit. Over 10 years, a fruit tree can easily yield fruit valued at $2000 or more, based on grocery store prices.

So, with all these advantages, you can see why I love trees. Now let’s talk about some of the costs. The cost of the tree itself depends on many factors. Some of my favorite trees are free. I merely collect seeds as I walk around the neighborhood, and plant them in my backyard. Ash trees, Palm trees, and several other varieties seem to sprout of their own accord, and are easy to transplant.

Ruiz Nursery, on Long Beach Blvd at Greenleaf, just north of the 91 Freeway, sells Ficus trees in 1 gallon size for $2, palms for $5, and other varieties for under $10. At Home Depot or other nurseries, 5 gallon trees typically cost between $10 and $30. But remember, even $30 is a very small price to pay for something that gives so much back.

The other main cost associated with trees (in dry climates) is watering. Water costs about 2 cents a gallon, and trees need about 2 gallons a week, so the cost of watering is around $2 per year. Most people tend to overwater, if they water at all. The key is simply to prevent the roots from drying out. This only takes a small amount of water, enough to fill the pot that the tree came in.

Now I am going to tell you how to plant a tree. The first step is to pick the location. It’s important to consider whether the tree will survive there, and also whether it will cause problems as it grows. Stand back and picture the full grown tree in the spot you have picked, so you can make adjustments if it will be too close to the house to walkways, or to other trees. If you are planting in a place with foot traffic, make sure you can somehow divert the traffic around the small tree so it doesn’t get stepped on. Support posts or metal cages are two ways to protect young trees.

The next step is to dig a hole. Dig the hole a little bigger than the pot, put the tree in, and fill it back up, patting it firm but not too tight. Make sure the tree is not too deep, its bud joint should be above ground level. And make sure it is not too high, or else the water may run off without soaking the roots. Slowly pour about 1 gallon of water around the hole immediately after planting, to keep the roots moist and fill in any air gaps. It’s that simple. You don’t need to add any fertilizers or other chemicals. A little mulch or bark around the trunk can help keep competitive weeds down and reduce water loss by keeping the soil cool, but it isn't absolutely necessary.

Now that you know why we should plant trees, and you know how to do it, let me further request that you support my grander plans in this area.

I want to designate a Path of Trees, from the ocean to downtown Los Angeles and beyond. This will be a contiguous sequence of streets which are treelined, spanning Los Angeles County. To do this I will need the help of volunteers and residents.

Another project I request your support for is a Neighborhood Fruit Cooperative. The problem with many fruit trees is they bear all their fruit in a few weeks, and it’s too much for any one family to eat. The best solution is to share this fruit with our neighbors, and I would like to set up a reciprocal arrangement so that each participant shares the fruit they produce and receives different fruits in turn. That way, everyone wins.

And lastly, I just want to ask that you plant a tree. Join with me in creating a greener planet Earth.



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