This letter features reporting from  “What Ballooning Carbon Emissions Will Do to Trees” by Daniel Grossman, a Pulitzer Center reporting project

Dear Senator Julie Mayfield, 

The Amazon rainforest is losing its trees because of increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the air. The increase in Co2 means trees grow and die faster. According to Daniel Grossman’s article, “What Ballooning Carbon Emissions Will Do to Trees,” land plants alone absorb around 25% of the Co2 that humans emit annually. But that number is decreasing at a higher rate than scientists originally estimated as a greater number of trees die and are cut down. The increasing amount of Co2 in the air is causing plants and trees to grow faster and die younger. It is a cycle that accelerates climate change twofold. When a tree dies, its stored Co2 is released into the air and we lose a natural cleaning machine that has softened the blow of climate change on humankind. 

According to the BBC article “As the Amazon fires continue to burn, Rachel Nuwer asks: ‘how independent are we on the survival of forests?,’” humanity has killed almost half of Earth’s 5.8 trillion trees at a rate of 15 billion trees cut each year. This rate is accelerating and the loss of trees not only increases the already abundant Co2 in the air, but deforestation also increases the local temperature. According to the same article mentioned above, trees provide a “localized cooling effect.” The shade their limbs provide keeps the soil cool and the leaves absorb the heat from the sun rather than reflect it back into the atmosphere.

According to Global Forest Watch, from 2000-2020, North Carolina lost 1.8 million hectares of tree canopy, or 23% of NC’s total forested area. When I saw this number, I had to make sure that I was on the right page. In just 20 years we have cut down a fourth of the forest that we had here in North Carolina, and we don’t plan on stopping. By 2030, North Carolina is expected to have a population of about 11.5 million people, about a million more people than the current population. According to a report by the Urban Institute, “Housing for North Carolina’s Future,” this increase in population is expected to require 866,000 new housing units, causing more and more trees to be removed. 

Secondly, the amount of heavy rain in NC is expected to increase exponentially over the next two decades. The effect of these downpours, combined with the fact that we are cutting down the very thing that will buffer erosion, will be devastating. Across from a local park in Asheville, where I live, four stilted houses have been built on the hillside, with more on their way. Construction on these houses started with the removal of trees that held the land in place, causing a landslide. Now a scar of clay and stones exists where plants could have grown. I cannot sit back any longer and let “progress” tear down the very thing that will save the human race, and I know you can’t either. If we continue on this path of rapid development and deforestation, our beautiful state of North Carolina will have no trees by the time I turn 70. We need to take action against this massive threat to the wellbeing of our environment, and ultimately the human race.

Thanks to legislation passed in our city of Asheville, we regulate the amount of trees developers are allowed to cut down, and every tree they cut is offset by a donation to a local organization dedicated to improving the environment, like Greenworks. Instead of paving over an entire area, Asheville encourages developers and homeowners to incorporate a greenspace into their design. Not only are trees great for the sustainability of our state and nation, incorporating trees and plants into developments and freestanding houses is economically beneficial to homeowners and developers alike, boosting selling prices by up to 15%, according to Greenworks. North Carolina needs to pass legislation like Asheville’s Tree Canopy Protection Ordinance to show that our state cares about the enormous threat of climate change. We cannot let individual cities tackle this issue by themselves. I ask that you, as a member of the North Carolina Senate, save our state’s trees and secure a brighter future for the human race.


Aidan O’Donnell

Aidan is an 8th grader at Francine Delany New School for Children in Asheville, NC. His favorite hobbies include being sarcastic, mountain biking, soccer, Onewheeling, learning R.E.M songs on piano, and making stuff with cardboard and popsicle sticks with his best friend Kai. After traveling to 45 states and visiting over 25 national parks, Aidan has gained an appreciation for the natural environment and the need to protect it. When he grows up, he wants to improve the availability and efficiency of infrastructure that harnesses renewable energy in order to preserve our Earth.

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