Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Right. It's February as I write this and since I just spent an hour shovelling out my driveway, naturally my thoughts today are about global warming. In fact, my exact thought was: “Man, could my toes really use some global warming.”

This was an interesting coincidence because when I thawed out enough to be able to use the Internet, I found an interesting article about a fellow who's come up with a solution to carbon dioxide emissions, which are believed to be a key cause of global warming. What he's got in mind are: artificial trees.

These are not, apparently, those horrible fake plants you see in corporate office buildings – those aren't for carbon emissions. What fake office plants are designed to do is make cubicles, neutral gray carpeting and hermetically sealed windows feel more homey and `natural' – without the icky business of having to water and prune anything.

Artificial trees, meanwhile, would be as big as barns and resemble giant tuning forks with venetian blinds strung across them. Since their purpose would be to cycle carbon dioxide out of the air, I guess you could call them tree breathers.

This concept raises a lot of very interesting philosophical questions, such as: 1) Have we learned nothing since that unfortunate experiment with artificial bacon bits? and 2) If an artificial tree fell in the forest, and no one was around, would it make a sound?

Okay, really, I can see why this scientist has devoted time and energy to this idea. The poor sap just wants people to twig to the fact that car emissions are a serious issue. You could say he's trying to get to the root of the problem, you know, to get you and me to pay attention to pollution issues. I mean, what wood you do?

So, why don't most people take the threat of global warming seriously and cut back on their driving time? Well, for starters, people have a hard time believing long term weather forecasts. This is because your average weather forecast includes terms like: partly cloudy, which means, “We don't know if it will be overcast or sunny today, so we're hedging our bets.”

For another thing, the average person has only two transportation options and neither of them are good.

If you buy a car, its not so much an investment, as it is a financial cycle that economists like to call: throwing money down a gopher hole. A car purchase also comes with the guilt of knowing you're contributing to air pollution and land pollution. (On a recent trip across the US, I came to the conclusion that America consists of three major land types: suburbs, high rises and dead car graveyards).

If you chose public transport, you'll spend half your life waiting at various depots, have your choice of screaming babies or loud radios for ambience, arrive an hour late, and find that the nearest drop off point is a convenient 7.5 kilometres from your final destination. And that's on a good day.

In any case, I'm not sure artificial trees are the answer to our pollution problems. Unlike real trees, they wouldn't provide decent shade, do anything for soil conservation, and venetian blind branches make for lousy treehouse supports. Even worse, you can't cut down artificial trees to make paper for paperwork, without which all of Western civilization would grind to a halt.

No, if scientists want people to do something about global warming, they should talk about air quality, not artificial trees. This is because most of us still remember a time when you didn't have to chew the air before breathing it. And they should devote more time to coming up with some transportation alternatives.

You know, so we can branch out?

To read more of Chandra's work, visit

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