Let the Trees Sing for Joy

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
    he comes to judge the earth.

Psalm 96:11-12
Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

This month’s contribution to the Bishops’ Epistle from the Diocese Creation Care Council is about TREES. We see them everywhere we look: in the mountains, in the desert, in the plains. A simple definition: trees are plants that grow taller than shrubs and grasses. Jesus frequently referred to trees in his teachings and parables. How many of his references can you recall?

This brief article will share a perspective on how proper husbandry of trees can contribute to solving our climate emergency.


In urban settings where much of the surface is covered with asphalt or concrete, the sun’s rays are disproportionately absorbed creating the “heat island” effect, raising the air temperature by 10 to 15 degrees F. Strategic tree planting can ameliorate this effect while enhancing beauty and providing respite from direct solar radiation.


Trees, through photosynthesis, absorb CO2 from the air and pull water from the earth to produce woody mass, roots and leaves/needles, and oxygen; all of which store carbon for varying durations.. (Thank you trees for producing the oxygen that sustains us!)


A large portion of the CO2 that trees pull from the air is stored in the leaves/needles, branches, trunk, and roots. As these carbon-containing tree parts decompose in and on the forest floor they store that carbon in the soil.


Wood can replace concrete and steel in certain structures, thus avoiding their high CO2 impact. Paper and cardboard can and should replace plastics.


Trees produce fruits, nuts, fiber, and medicines. Here in the southwest examples of food from trees are citrus fruit, oak acorns, and pinion pine nuts. Tribes in the northwest use the Red Cedar for clothing, cordage, canoes, dwellings, and more. The “drum stick tree” grows in most tropical climates and is known as the “miracle tree” since it provides water purification, nourishing food, medicines,

One fascinating effort to preserve tree species in the face of a changing climate is the Champion Tree Project. The founder, David Milarch, had a near-death experience in which he was told to return to living and save ancient trees. He then founded The Ancient Tree Archive ( The premise is that the oldest and biggest trees have desirable germplasm. He is cloning these trees (by clipping the apical meristems from high up in the canopy) from locations around the world to propagate them. His premise is that the oldest and biggest trees must have good genes that should be used in both afforestation and reforestation in a rapidly changing climate.

Another inspiring tree pioneer is a Japanese botanist, Dr. Akira Miyawaki, who sees the book, Mini-Forest Revolution by Hannah Lewis. He developed an afforestation technique applicable to brownfield or degraded urban landscapes. Called the Miyawaki Method, the initial step is to improve the soil with mulch, mineral, and acid/alkaline amendments. The next step is selecting locally adapted, native trees, shrubs, and ground cover plants. Next is planting….in a more dense manner than typically used. This method results in a mature forest in decades instead of centuries. However, any tree planting effort, to be successful, requires one or more persons to devote significant efforts for the initial 3 years after planting to water, weed, and nourish the newly planted trees.

In closing, the Creation Care Council of the Arizona Diocese will work with any Parish that wants to plant trees, on church property or in your community. Working together we will try to make use of the Miyawaki method, cloned champion trees as well as the Arbor Day Foundation’s supply of trees adapted for each Arizona climate zone. Contact David Spence at to get started. Let’s use God’s gift of trees to slow climate change and beautify our locale.