Trees have been on my mind a lot lately. I am working on a project with Olaf “the tree guy” Ribeiro for Earth Art Bainbridge, and so I have been looking at trees and thinking about trees, and learning just how important they are to a healthy climate.

Trees are the lungs of the planet (along with the oceans), and we rely on them to breathe in (and sequester) CO2 and breathe out oxygen so that we humans can breathe. A single mature tree can absorb 48 lbs per year of CO2 and release enough oxygen into the atmosphere to support 2 human beings.

With the massive fires in western North America and Siberia this summer, the ongoing fires in Indonesia and the Amazon rain forest, along with continued logging of trees all over the world, I am constantly reminded that we are losing the Earth’s lungs. When forests are cut down and burned, they release a huge amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.

This week I found these incredibly beautiful landscapes painted on fallen tree logs, by New York artist Alison Mortsugu. These paintings speak volumes to me about the broken relationship with have with our planet, and with our forests and trees specifically. As Alison describes in her artist statement, the paintings evoke landscapes from a time when we painted the land as “a bountiful Eden, a limitless frontier ripe for conquest.” We are still conquering the land, cutting down and burning forests for industrial agriculture and consumption, only now we know that this bounty is not limitless; it will not last forever. The cross sections of the logs tell us immediately that not only is our way of interacting with nature now broken, it is inherently destructive. “By viewing the painting’s surface, the cross section of a tree, any sense of nostalgia or celebration of nature is countered by the evidence of its destruction.”

See more of Alison’s beautiful work at her web site: