There is something quite magical about trees. From the food we eat to the air we breath trees sustain us. They provide us with medicines, enrich our soils, cleanse our water tables, build and furnish our homes, provide shade and coalesce the clouds that bring us fresh rain water. Trees soothe us emotionally, for no matter how down we may feel, we always feel a little better when we can get ourselves to a park or forest and commune with a tree.
What could be a better symbol of hope and renewal than a tree?
You may be surprised to learn that the humble Christmas tree actually pre-dates “Christmas” by many thousands of years. The winter solstice celebration currently known as Christmas has in fact gone by many names, and has had many religious rituals attached to it throughout the ages.
The Pagans used to use evergreen branches to decorate their homes during the winter solstice, as a reminder that the renewal of spring would soon be with them. The ancient Romans even used fir trees to decorate their temples at the festival of Saturnalia, so there is nothing new, or exclusively christian about lopping down a tree and dragging it inside for the mid winter festival.
While the global figures are difficult to calculate the USA chops down and sells around 40 million live christmas trees every year, but this is not an entirely bad thing. It means there is somewhere in the vicinity of 400 million trees in the USA, (sorry don’t have Australian figures), now growing that wouldn’t be there but for the Christmas market, (and 400 million trees is a lot of carbon abatement).
With roughly 40% of live Christmas trees subsequently being recycled, and the fact that fir trees don’t need as high a quality soil as other crops, (so they can utilise otherwise degraded land), using a real tree is, on the face of it, a far better option than using a fake one.
“The annual carbon emissions associated with using a real tree every year were just one-third of those created by an artificial tree over a typical six-year lifespan. Most fake trees also contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which produces carcinogens during manufacturing and disposal”. NY times
Even so, the arbitrary chopping down trees is not something we should be taking lightly. The fact is we are in big environmental trouble, and deforestation is a large part of our problem.
Forests currently cover about 30 % of the world’s land mass but according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization an estimated 18 million acres (7.3 million hectares) of forest – roughly the size of Panama – are lost each year and about half of the world’s tropical forests have already been cleared; with forest loss contributing between 12 and 17 % of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.
But the reckless felling of the world’s forests doesn’t just pose a threat to our global climate, it also endangers global food security. Soil erosion, soil salinity, drought, and desertification are just some of the devastating consequences of industrial forestry and farming practices.
While there are a plethora of ideas and arguments on how to manage the climate crisis, many suggestions, like geo-engineering, could expose the planet to utterly terrifying unforeseen consequences. There is however one rather unassuming solution being proposed that is, (as far as anyone has been able to ascertain), totally free from any negative consequences…
PLANT MORE TREES!
It’s hardly a radical proposition, as pretty much everyone agrees that if we are to avoid a catastrophic environmental collapse we need to preserve the trees and forests we already have, and we desperately need to plant more!
There is plenty of good science behind this too. Trees release chemicals that form clouds, and clouds not only bring rain, but they also reflect sunlight and act like a heat shield. Trees can literally cool the planet if we plant enough of them. But the good news doesn’t stop there, planting trees can repair degraded landscapes and provide food, employment and business opportunities where there is currently nothing but despair.
This inspiring video, narrated by Stephen Fry is an insight into what we can achieve if we all pull together.
At this point I would like to introduce you to “WE FOREST”, a non profit TREE PLANTING NGO that in spite of being very well known in Europe, (and having been founded by noted Melbourne expat Bill Liao), has thus far remained fairly low profile here in Australia.
With the modest aim of planting two trillion trees, rehabilitating degraded land and cooling the planet, (all while providing food, business opportunities and employment for locals), WE FOREST has planted more than 6 million trees so far, and is currently doubling it’s total plant every year.
SUCH IS THE POWER OF A GOOD IDEA BACKED UP BY ACTION!
Giving trees for Christmas is something that I am doing this year, and it’s something I am inviting you to do with me. In just a few clicks, you can offset your entire carbon footprint for the year, or buy trees as a gift for your loved ones. (You will get a nice certificate via email stating how many trees you have bought on their behalf, and you can add a personal message too). The trees you donate, (and their associated permaculture forests) are monitored to ensure they remain in place, so you can rest assured that your gift will be one that will keep on giving for generations to come.
When you add up all the benefits of strategic tree planting the upside is absolutely astounding, and at approximately $1 a tree, the cost is surprisingly small. What better gift to give your children than to match the cost of this year’s Christmas tree with the gift purchase of REAL LIVING GROWING TREES that will help secure a better future for the planet and our entire human family?
Best of the season to you all.
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