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Hug a Tree—They Help Keep You Healthy

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istock

Nebraskan Julius Sterling Morton believed that planting trees could save America, and he convinced the state to celebrate Arbor Day in April 1872. By planting trees, Morton hoped to prevent erosion, preserve the topsoil, and break some of the raging winds across the plains. While Arbor Day wasn’t officially adopted in the United States until 100 years later, Morton was onto something. A recent study finds that trees can save America, though not quite in the ways Morton envisioned. Instead, the study found that trees contribute to good health.  

Researchers led by David Nowak, a forestry researcher, conducted four analyses on the county level, comparing urban to rural areas to understand the overall impact of trees on human health. The analyses included a look at the daily “total tree cover and leaf area index,” “the hourly flux of pollutants to and from the leaves,” “the effects of hourly pollution removal on pollutant concentration in the atmosphere,” and “the health impacts and monetary value of the change in [pollutants].”  

The study provides some surprising results. Trees scrub the air of pollution, removing as much as 17.4 million tons of pollution in 2010. This translates to health savings of about $6.8 billion annually. In addition to saving money, trees prevent as many of 850 deaths and help avoid 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms.

While more trees are located in rural areas, those which have put down roots in urban areas work harder and have a bigger influence. “Thus, in terms of impacts on human health, trees in urban areas are substantially more important than rural trees due to their proximity to people," the researchers write. "The greatest monetary values are derived in areas with the greatest population density (e.g. Manhattan)."

Trees contribute to overall health, but the monetary savings from U.S. trees alone amounts to $86 billion annually. While the authors admit that their analysis has some limitations, the message seems clear: Trees do change American lives. 

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infographics
All the Plastic Ever Produced, Visualized
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iStock

Humanity has a plastic problem. The cheap, durable material has become a vital part of our vehicles, food packaging, and even the inner structures of our homes. We’ve already produced 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff, and most of it is sitting in landfills where it could take centuries to break down.

In early 2017, a study published in the journal Science Advances highlighted the literal weight of this growing issue. Researchers calculated that the bulk of all the plastic that’s been made by humans is equivalent to that of 25,000 Empire State Buildings or 80 million blue whales. Of that, only 9 percent has been recycled. The amount of plastic waste currently trashing our planet adds up to 6.3 billion metric tons, and the researchers don’t see our plastic addiction getting any less severe in the near future. By 2050, the plastic in our landfills is expected to hit 12 billion metric tons. You can see more alarming statistics from the study in the infographic below.

Infographic showing plastic production statistics.
University of Georgia, Janet A Beckley

Of all the trash we produce, plastic is some of the toughest to get rid of [PDF]. Scientists are looking into solutions, such as plastic-chomping caterpillars and germs, but for now consumers can do the planet a favor by investing in more reusable goods.

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Noriyuki Saitoh
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Art
Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
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Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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