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Leaf it be

THERE was a time when the glorious trees of fall could be appreciated for their beauty alone, free of ``larger'' environmental concerns. No more.

Trees, today, are in the headlines, entangled in issues of ``global'' import. These heralds of the seasons and punctuators of landscapes also whither under acid rain, suffer from the Midwest drought, and brave attacks by pear thrips. It could be hard this year to gaze on a brilliant maple without thoughts of what the tree has gone through to produce that gold and red.

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Worse, some scientists find support for the Ronald Reagan line about trees causing air pollution. They really do, according to an article in the magazine Science by Georgia Tech atmospheric chemist William Chameides and others. Apparently, an old Volkwagen may take back seat to a clump of trees when it comes to producing hydrocarbons - i.e., smog.

Set against this is a proposal by Daniel Dudek, an Environmental Defense Fund economist: Ten million additional acres of trees in the United States would offset the carbon dioxide churned out by new coal- and oil-fired power plants. Trees absorb the stuff, countering the greenhouse effect.

But how much smog would that many more trees exude?

This forest of speculation obscures the trees themselves. So why not shelve scientific inquiry for a season and enjoy nature's poetry.

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