Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Plant an Ocean Tree!

Plant an Ocean Tree!

Happy Earth Day, April 22!  Plant an ocean tree!  Like a mangrove.

For this 50th anniversary of Earth Day many faith groups, including my beloved United Church of Christ, proclaim “Plant a Tree This Month!”  Check out for fabulous options – plant your own, send $1 to the Arbor Day Foundation for each tree you want them to plant in a national park, $12 to the Organization for African Churches to plant trees in Kenya or Zambia, $20 for olive trees in Palestine.  Of course I sent off money to plant trees in all these places.

But I’m a Blue Theologian, lover of the ocean’s power and promise, prophet of its peril.  On this Earth Day I also want to support the wet parts of Planet Earth.  What is the equivalent “plant a tree” action I can take in the ocean? 

(Always a key question – I understand the need, but what can I DO?  Planting trees seems easy, direct, with obvious impact – more O2 for us to breathe, erosion control, food, and of course beauty. )

Trees live in the ocean too!  Well, in coastal waters, at the rich transition meeting of land and sea.  

A great example is the mangrove tree, a tropical tree which I first learned about at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (sadly closed now, but fish and other living things are being well cared for and fed.) The “Viva Baja!” exhibit about Mexico features a split view, wet and dry, of a mangrove tree, with information about its promise and peril.

Mangroves grow right in the water, and are called the “roots of the sea,” providing shelter and nurseries for varied ocean life (fish, shrimp, birds.)  Their strong roots are anchors for the coastline, slowing down destructive waves and storms, saving lives and property.  

But over 20% of mangrove trees have been cut down worldwide, often cleared for coastal tourist resorts.  Recovery efforts after the deadly Asian tsunami included massive replanting of mangrove and other coastal trees that had been cut down before the disaster, or torn up by the waves, for the sake of future protection.   Rising sea levels also threaten to drown these wet and dry trees.  Mangroves also absorb our excessive carbon, sequestering more carbon proportionally than any other forest, five times more than rainforests.

Mangroves – shelter for babies, shelter from storms, shelter from climate change.  Nurseries and anchors.  But threatened by greedy developers and weather disasters fueled by climate change.  These coastal “liminal” places are beautiful and tender and need protection. is one group that restores mangroves.

If you want to stay in the US for tree planting, there are similar efforts to restore the coastal forests of Louisiana, likewise cut down for tourism or agriculture. The absence of these anchors and seawalls is deadly in storms like Katrina.  Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

Plant a coastal tree, an ocean tree, through these and many other good organizations.  And the trees of the field (and of the ocean,) will clap their hands, as we go out with joy! (Isaiah 55)
I post these ocean devotionals, Blue Theology “Tideings” every Wednesday here and on Facebook.. 

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