America has more trees now than it's had in 100 years. But we're not out of the woods yet.

Trees: Green, leafy, rustling in the wind. Old-fashioned, carve your name into 'em, crash your bike into 'em trees.

Trees! Photo by Chelsea Bock/Unsplash.


America has more of them now than it's had in 100 years.

Yes! Really. This is very good news. Thanks in large part to sustainable harvesting practices and the creation of national parks, forest growth has been exceeding deforestation in the U.S. for decades.

In fact, many American forestry companies are planting more trees than they harvest. Which is pretty cool if you enjoy looking at trees or, you know ... BREATHING AIR.

The United States contains 8% of the world's forests.

That's roughly 300 million hectares of forest, which is exceeded only by Russia, Brazil, and Canada (where presumably the trees get free health care).

Right before you decorate it and watch it die. Photo by Andrew Spencer/Unsplash.

The largest area of forest growth continues to be on the East Coast.

Average wood-per-acre volumes there have nearly doubled since the 1950s. Which is amazing progress, since the East Coast was the area most heavily logged by European settlers in the 1600s.

"You ever just wonder what it's all really about, man?" Photo by Ales Krevec/Unsplash.

Even New York City, a place not exactly known for its abundance of trees, is doing its part.

In April 2007, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans to plant 1 million trees in New York City by 2017. That ambitious goal was met this November with two years to spare — a once-in-a-lifetime case of government accomplishing something faster than expected.

And as if there could be more good news...

It's not just America. The world has more trees than anyone previously thought.

A lot more.

A study conducted by 38 scientists and published by the journal Nature found that there are over 3 trillion trees on the planet, several times higher than previous estimates.

There are 3 tillion trees on Earth. Pictured are some of them. Photo by Kaleb Nimz/Unsplash.

While all of these numbers are encouraging, the picture isn't entirely rosy.

The world still has fewer trees than at any point in human history. Which isn't great.

According to Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral researcher at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the spread of human influence has reduced the number of trees on the planet by half, which is "astronomical."

Still, the trend of tree growth in the U.S. is encouraging. Trees clean pollutants from the air, absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and produce oxygen. They're also home to innumerable species of life around the world.

Look at that tree just crushing it out there. Photo by John Mark Arnold/Unsplash.

In short, trees are awesome and we should have as many of them as possible. So go outside and tell a tree you love it.

Seriously. Go hug a tree. It's not that weird, I promise.

Correction 5/26/2017: A previous version of this story stated that there are 3 billion trees on the planet. The Nature study found 3 trillion, not billion. Even better.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less