This the fifth post in a six part blog introducing the Lynchburg Parks and Recreation Department’s, “Please Do Hug the Trees” campaign. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to read Part I of The Tree Hugging Hippies Were Right After All before continuing with Part IV.
Nature’s Incredible Healing Benefits
Over the course of the past six years, I have read many articles and books with regard to the way the universe works and the mind blowing health benefits of Earth’s natural environment. Just recently have I intensely researched the exact mechanisms by which time in nature improves all states of human health.
While exploring on-line portals, articles about Matthew Silverstone’s new book Blinded by Science consistently surfaced in a synchronistic way. I took this as a sign it was time to pull my thoughts together and attempt to summarize the acres of nature research into some common denominators that could be communicated and lend credibility to the idea that time spent outdoors, especially in natural environments, improve human health. The studies and research outlined in this blog serve as the foundation of our “Please Do Hug the Trees” campaign.
Motivated by the positive intention of wanting to improve the human condition and unite the public with the “good vibes” that the natural environment provides was the chief cornerstone of this crusade. We know that time in nature is beneficial to human health and we wanted to encourage our Lynchburg community to unplug and reconnect with the natural environment. Energizing this movement in a fun and engaging way, the modus operandi of parks and recreation, the Please Do Hug the Trees” campaign was hatched. Our department has numerous sub-operations that will make up the campaign – all encourage community participation. I will outline this adventurous call to action in the Part VI of this blog.
As far as the Silverstone’s assertion “Up until now it has been thought to be the open green spaces that cause this effect. The study shows it has nothing to do with this by showing that it is the vibrational properties of trees and plants that give us the health benefits and not the open green spaces.” Hmmm, well, yes and no. Having been given a crash course in frequency and vibration in Parts III and IV of this blog, we know that Schumann Resonance frequency of 7.83 Hz has everything to do with improved human health through entrained brain waves – so “yes” to frequency and vibration. However, we also know from the Oschmann, Ober and Mercola research displayed in Part IV, free electrons via grounding to Earth’s green spaces also play a major role as well. Therefore, the health benefits of green space cannot be written off as paltry or meaningless.
Evergreen Healing Balm
There are many other studies that this blog did not address but may enlighten and broaden the understanding of the unique health benefits of nature and tree hugging beyond Schumann Resonance and free electrons. For instance, Forest Bathing research found that phytoncide exuded from evergreen trees improved immune functioning and “an interesting finding in the context of the century-old reports on the success of the so-called forest cure in tuberculosis treatment. In the mid- to late 1800s, physicians Peter Detweiler and Hermann Brehmer set up sanatoriums in Germany’s pine forests, as did Edward Trudeau in the Adirondack forests of New York. All reported the benefit of the forest air; indeed, contrary to expectations, the results seemed to be magnified when the forest air trapped moisture. There was speculation among the physicians of the time that pine trees secreted a healing balm into the air, and in yet another twist of the shinrin-yoku studies, the existence of an unseen airborne healer is being revealed.
The resin, twigs, and needles of coniferous trees are rich in terpenes such as L-bornyl acetate, which is known to calm the nervous system and promote relaxation. Terpenes and terpenoids are anti-bacterial and anti-carcinogenic, have regenerative properties, and help protect living cells from oxidation and degeneration. Squalene, a terpene compound, is important to the production of steroids such as testosterone and estrogen. A widely-known terpene is Vitamin A.
Trees Clean the Air we Breathe
Tree stomata drives the Planet Earth cycles and 30% of all carbon on the planet is cleaned by trees and plants. “Parks are significant parts of the urban landscape and comprise about 6% of city and town areas in the conterminous United States. These urban parks are estimated to contain about 370 million trees with a structural value of approximately $300 billion. The number of park trees varies by region of the country, but they can produce significant air quality effects in and near parks, related to air temperatures, air pollution, ultraviolet radiation, and carbon dioxide. Additional open space and other vacant lands in cities, which may contain trees and other vegetation, also contribute significant additional benefits. Effects of parks and open space at the city scale can vary significantly depending on the amount of parkland and amount of tree cover within the parkland.”
In an analysis of 18 years of data from 1,296 counties in 15 states, researchers found that Americans living in areas infested by the emerald ash borer, a beetle that kills ash trees, suffered from an additional 15,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more deaths from lower respiratory disease when compared to uninfected areas. When emerald ash borer comes into a community, city streets lined with ash trees become treeless.
In Lynchburg, there are 900 acres of parks and green spaces spread over 50 square miles. We can only estimate that the lush vegetation and tree cover in Blackwater Creek watershed and Peaks View Park cleans the air we breathe and provides excellent air quality for Lynchburgers.
Connecting with Nature Improves Mental Well-Being
Many studies have shown that City planners, architects, and psychologists know that green space is essential to mental and physical wellness. Joseph B. Juhasz, PhD, past president of APA’s Div. 34 (Population and Environmental) believes that one explanation for the current epidemic of depression lies in the near-universal experience of uprootedness and alienation fostered by the environments in which we live. Erich Fromm described a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that is alive and vital.
Aristotle was one of many to put forward a concept that could be summarized as “love of life”.
E.O. Wilson suggests that biophilia describes “the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.” Philias are the attractions and positive feelings that people have toward organisms, species, habitats, processes and objects in their natural surroundings versus phobias, which are the aversions and fears that people have of things in the natural world.
Trees and Plants are Conscious Cooperative Communicators
By now you understand that trees (and nature) are essential to our good health, but how about the idea that trees are conscious and they have an ability to communicate, a la Wizard of Oz grumpy apple trees but more subtle and pleasant? Trees are friends and they talk to each other.
Trees do not compete for survival of the fittest but instead help each other out. Trees send carbon signal into the tree root that is connected to the fungi. Fungi helps trees communicate with each other.
“Plants are wonderful communicators: they share a lot of information with neighboring plants or with other organisms such as insects or other animals. The scent of a rose, or something less fascinating as the stench of rotting meat produced by some flowers, is a message for pollinators.”
It is no wonder that physicians are now prescribing time in nature to heal ailments and improve human health. Here doctors explain how hiking can halt obsessive thoughts, improve ADHD and boost creative problem solving.
Physicians are now championing our cause.
“With our nation’s current epidemic of obesity… it’s time that we doctors prescribe time outside, in nature, for all our patients.” –Dr. Robert Zarr MD, Pediatrician
“Clinicians and families know why to be in nature for health; the issue is how.”–Dr. Nooshin Razani MD, Family Practice
“Telling people to get out and exercise wasn’t working… Our goal is simple—to transform medicine. We want everyone in the world to have access to this.”–Dr. David Sabgir MD, Cardiologist
Now, physicians have even teamed up with the National Parks and Recreation Association for a new campaign called Park Rx.
End of Part V: The Tree Hugging Hippies Were Right After All. Stay tuned next week for Part VI of this six-part series and to learn how Parks and Recreation is going to save the world!