Our Allies, The Trees

Welcome to the fourth edition of Firelight: Wisdom to Support & Inspire! This edition is curated by Teddie Potter who shares with us her love of and connection to our allies, the trees. 

This month's curator

Teddie Potter is Clinical Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota. She is the Coordinator of the Doctor of Nursing Practice in Health Innovation and Leadership and the Director of Inclusivity and Diversity. Recently she co-authored a book with Riane Eisler called Transforming Interprofessional Partnerships: A New Framework for Nursing and Partnership-Based Health Care. A passion for healing, traditional wisdom, and her own lifelong love of nature led Teddie to be instrumental in forming “The Earthwise Group” at Mayflower United Church of Christ and serve as both as a board member and member of the Movement Development Team at MNIPL. 

We are so grateful for the many gifts Teddie brings to the interfaith climate movement and delighted to share this edition of Firelight with you!

Thanks for joining us around the fire, 


Fifth Edition, by Teddie Potter 
Celebrate Our Allies, The Trees

I spent the first four years of my life in the sage-covered hills of Montana. I was two and a half when my brother was born and I remember going to the hospital to see him. Children couldn’t visit back then so I stood outside with my grandparents and looked up to the window where my mom stood smiling and waving with my baby brother in her arms. I could have cared less! 

I was far more interested in a beautiful creature that stood beside me. She was tall and graceful and one of the most regal beings I had ever seen. As I walked around the being I said, “Grandpa, what are these?” He replied, “They are called roots.” You see I had never seen a tree before. No one had ever told me, “A tree is just a large plant.” Therefore I saw the tree as a luminous being, calling us to friendship. 

I still do…

(Photo credit: Terra Peterson Jonker, January 2017)



Summer is a perfect time to reconnect with trees and be grateful for their many gifts. Here is a list from

Trees combat climate change: Excess carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by many factors is  building up in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.

Trees clean the air: Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.

Trees provide oxygen: In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.

Trees cool the streets and the city: Average temperatures in Los Angeles have risen 6°F in the last 50 years as tree coverage has declined and the number of heat-absorbing roads and buildings has increased. Trees cool the city by up to 10°F, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves.

Trees conserve energy: Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. By reducing the energy demand for cooling our houses, we reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants.

Trees save water: Shade from trees slows water evaporation from thirsty lawns. Most newly planted trees need only fifteen gallons of water a week. As trees transpire, they increase atmospheric moisture.

Trees help prevent water pollution: Trees reduce runoff by breaking rainfall thus allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree. This prevents storm water from carrying pollutants to the ocean. When mulched, trees act like a sponge that filters this water naturally and uses it to recharge groundwater supplies.

Trees help prevent soil erosion: On hillsides or stream slopes, trees slow runoff and hold soil in place.

Trees shield children from ultra-violet rays: Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 50 percent, thus providing protection to children on school campuses and playgrounds - where children spend hours outdoors.

Trees provide food: An apple tree can yield up to 15-20 bushels of fruit per year and can be planted on the tiniest urban lot. Aside from fruit for humans, trees provide food for birds and wildlife.

Trees heal: Studies have shown that patients with views of trees out their windows heal faster and with less complications. Children with ADHD show fewer symptoms when they have access to nature. Exposure to trees and nature aids concentration by reducing mental fatigue.

Trees reduce violence: Neighborhoods and homes that are barren have shown to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help to reduce the level of fear.

Trees mark the seasons: Is it winter, spring, summer or fall? Look at the trees.

Trees create economic opportunities: Fruit harvested from community orchards can be sold, thus providing income. Small business opportunities in green waste management and landscaping arise when cities value mulching and its water-saving qualities. Vocational training for youth interested in green jobs is also a great way to develop economic opportunities from trees.

Trees are teachers and playmates: Whether as houses for children or creative and spiritual inspiration for adults, trees have provided the space for human retreat throughout the ages.

Trees bring diverse groups of people together: Tree plantings provide an opportunity for community involvement and empowerment that improves the quality of life in our neighborhoods. All cultures, ages, and genders have an important role to play at a tree planting or tree care event.

Trees add unity: Trees as landmarks can give a neighborhood a new identity and encourage civic pride.

Trees provide a canopy and habitat for wildlife: Sycamore and oak are among the many urban species that provide excellent urban homes for birds, bees, possums and squirrels.

Trees block things: Trees can mask concrete walls or parking lots, and unsightly views. They muffle sound from nearby streets and freeways, and create an eye-soothing canopy of green. Trees absorb dust and wind and reduce glare.

Trees provide wood: In suburban and rural areas, trees can be selectively harvested for fuel and craft wood.

Trees increase property values: The beauty of a well-planted property and its surrounding street and neighborhood can raise property values by as much as 15 percent.

Trees increase business traffic: Studies show that the more trees and landscaping a business district has, the more business will flow in. A tree-lined street will also slow traffic – enough to allow the drivers to look at the storefronts instead of whizzing by.





A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.”

–John Muir



Indigenous people have long known that nature and humans are part of the same family. Bolivia and Ecuador have therefore amended their constitutions to give nature equal rights to humans.

Video: Wild Law - Cormac Cullinan speaks at the World People's Summit on Climate Change (Bolivia) 

Others have also been able to think differently about creation. 


For example, consider the famous “Tree that Owns Itself” once located in Athens, Georgia. Its owner loved the tree so dearly that upon his death he granted the white oak its freedom.

The official deed reads:

For and in consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides—William H. Jackson” 


You can get ten free trees by becoming a member of the National Arbor Day Foundation. You can also offset your carbon footprint through the Foundation:



In this challenging work of climate change, remember to stop and renew yourself, perhaps in the shade of a favorite tree


The Peace of Wild Things by William Berry

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.   


(Photo credit: Terra Peterson Jonker, 2017)