15 Shvat, 5771 — Trees just might be the ultimate environmentalists. They provide shelter and food for animals large and small. They nourish the soil with their fallen leaves, and protect it with their strong roots. And trees not only pump oxygen into the atmosphere, allowing every animal on the surface of the planet to breathe, they also filter out greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, as well as precursors to acid rain, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. How many other environmentalists can claim that?
We can only aspire to help the environment as much as trees do. So perhaps one of the most important things we can do is to assist the trees in doing their amazing work.
Plant them, protect them, and remember God's environmentalists as you enjoy their fruits on this Tu B'Shvat, and every day. You can even try embracing them. You don't need to like granola to hug a tree — everyone can be a treehugger.
Last month's fire in Israel, the largest in the history of the modern state, burned more than five million trees. While it will take years before the trees' seeds repopulate Israel's northern forests, you can help speed the process by planting new trees through organizations such as KKL/JNF, and by supporting the efforts of organizations that work to protect trees in their environment in Israel, such as the Green Zionist Alliance and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
You also can help protect some of the most important forests in the world — rainforests — through the Rainforest Action Network. In the United States, you can plant trees through American Forests, one of the nation's oldest tree-conservation organizations. Or, better yet, plant one in your own backyard. Plant two. Heck, plant a grove around your house. Trees are natural air conditioners, and their shade on a home's windows and walls can help cut summer cooling bills by up to 50 percent.
Today, on Tu B'Shvat, keep in mind all that trees do for us — and all we need to do for them. This holiday isn't just the birthday for trees — it's a celebration of God's ultimate environmentalists.