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Sitting in the AC, I look out the window and smile as dogs being walked collapse under the shade of my Norway maple. And who could blame them? Would any of us want to be out in this harsh heat wearing a fur coat?

This has been one of the few times I've given thanks I'm not in Paris. That's because, though much of Europe is baking, Paris is suffering even more than cities like London, where the temperature exceeded an unheard-of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Climate change is happening all over, but why is Paris doing worse than elsewhere? Not enough trees.

Trees provide shade, which cools the pavement below. They also increase water evaporation, another factor moderating the heat.

The concrete, metal and asphalt of cities soak up heat and radiate it back. Without much green to offset some of it, Paris has become a case study in the "urban heat islands." That is, parts of the city were found to be nearly 20 degrees hotter than neighboring areas.

The favorite French word for the heat wave is "canicule." Translation: "dog days."


Noting that a green umbrella helps lower temperatures, MIT's Senseable City Lab has put together a "Treepedia" that compares tree coverage in a number of cities. The researchers based the calculations behind their "green view index" on Google Street View panoramas.

Paris came in near bottom. It's tree canopy covered only 8.8% of the city. In contrast, London's shaded 12.7%. In Los Angeles, trees sheltered 15.2% of the city from the sun. There should be little surprise that Seattle's tree coverage was an admirable 20%.

Interestingly, New York City's "green view index" came in at a respectable 13.5%. Gotham is not all "concrete canyons," as lore would have it.

Complicating cities' efforts to plant more trees is the competition for limited space. For example, Athens has long been a hot, paved city. But proposals there to plant trees must fight demand for parking spaces. One must choose.

The heat problem has economic implications. By 2050, "urban heat stress" could cut a person's ability to work by about 20% in the hot months, according to a United Nations report by leading climate experts. Overheated human beings are more likely to suffer exhaustion, dizziness and even organ failure.

Trees, of course, play a big-picture role in the global warming crisis. Wherever they are located, trees store the carbon dioxide gases that warm the earth's atmosphere. They also release water vapor that helps form clouds. Thus, the massive deforestation in the tropics is harming quality of life in far-distant places, including northern urban centers.

The science here is not simple, though. Some effects of climate change could actually moderate the heat trend. As the Arctic melts, Science magazine reports, trees are growing in regions where ice predominated. In parts of Alaska where there was only moss and lichen, spruce trees are rising.

The bare tundra of northern Siberia is giving way to bushes and willows. Such a development, if it continues, would create no small forest. The Nenets autonomous district alone is the size of Florida.

In arid regions with milder climates, meanwhile, increased concentrations of carbon enable plants to use water more efficiently and thrive in drier soils. Carbon dioxide also acts as a fertilizer, promoting the growth of wood and leaves.

Certainly, multibillion-dollar things can be done to insulate buildings and retrofit the urban infrastructure to absorb less heat. But trees cost so little, do not require new technology and look nice, too.

Trees don't just stand there. They can help beat the heat and may end up saving civilization. Dogs already know this.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

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In the West the cowboy way of life has ruled since the first pioneers and their covered wagons.

After a generation living out here, I can vouch that the earth and snow pack have changed. It feels as if everything is geared to the cow, setting up the kind of environment that dissolved the Anasazi people a thousand years ago. Our current drought is the worst in 1200 years. One reason is that the average American eats more meat than anyone on earth – nearly 500 pounds of meat a year -- followed by the Australians. The pollutants and gases discharged into the atmosphere by meat production are killing the planet. If we changed the way we eat worldwide, the forests of the world might have a chance.

Everything seems to bow to cows out West, from fences and water waste to alfalfa fields that could be used for far more efficient food, all for cattle. The condition in which cows and livestock are raised in the factory farms is a horror story. Predators are killed in the thousands in the name of saving cows, although domestic dogs do far more damage to heifers than coyotes or wolves. When the dustbowl erupts again in the Midwest, and there are signs that it is, people will remember this warning.

America has been built on beef and pork since the beginning as a measure of good health and social standing. After World War II, the hamburger craze exploded. Nearly half of all meat consumed after 1990 was hamburgers. We see the consequences in the obesity rate. Already in the late seventies we were warned of the cholesterol, cancer, diabetes and coronary complications of eating a diet rich in red meat . Today we have became a country of chicken eaters primarily because it has less fat, but the bird flu affecting tens of millions of chickens is a clear sign that we are treating domestic animals with untold cruelty and abhorrent living conditions. Humans and Big Ag animals account for 96 percent of the mammalian biomass on earth. Only four percent is wildlife. The earth will simply not be able to feed 10 billion carnivores. We will cannibalize ourselves long before that.

Forty percent of the world’s land area has been degraded since America’s inception. The flaying of the old growth forests is a crime for which we cannot atone. Much of the deforestation in the Amazon is due to America’s and the world’s meat consumption. The Amazon is close to dieback, the point at which the great green miracle with the greatest biodiversity on earth, will become savannah. We are insane. Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro has given free rein to illegal logging and miners to promote cattle ranching and other exploitive activities. How much of this devastation was abetted by our banks such as JP Morgan-Chase and the average American consumer? Listen to the scientists who protested at Chase Bank in LA, one of them gluing his hand to the bank’s window, exclaiming,” We will lose everything.”

Meat consumption, with its methane producing by-product, is also melting the Arctic and Antartica. We are losing 1,2 trillion tons of ice every year. The cooling system of the planet is collapsing. We have seen it up close. It is a horror story.. If those who don’t believe in climate change take charge again in the midterms and 2024, we may well lose the planet…for good.

Only a few years ago, climate change felt like science fiction. Those who still disbelieve the scientific and ecological realities are sacrificing their children’s future. The economic fallacy of endless growth is costing us the lifeline to existence. Perpetual growth on a finite planet is a fallacy and going to the moon, Mars, or Enceladus will not solve our dilemma. We have precisely this decade to turn things around or our civilization politically, financially and ecologically may not make it to 2030, let alone 2050.

Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson have been bearing witness to the interaction between tribal people and wildlife in Africa for over a generation. They have published four books on Africa including the latest with their son Lysander, Lords of the Earth -The Entwined Destiny of Wildlife and Humanity. Their most recent film is Walking Thunder- Ode to the African Elephant.