Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Week 11: The Maple Leaf Forever

The proud maple leaf flies over our country as a national symbol recognized around the world. It symbolizes that Canada is clean, filled with natural beauty, and, well, maple trees! Trees not only provide shade, shelter and beauty to our surroundings. They clean our air. They filter our water. They provide homes for millions of species. Trees are a big part of mitigating climate change. A mature tree sequesters 48 pounds of CO2 every year. Globally, forests absorb and can store as much as 30 per cent of carbon emissions from human activities. They remove pollutants, like carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulates, which keeps our lungs, and our atmosphere cleaner.  

Trees also store carbon internally in their leaves, trunks and roots. When we cut down a tree, it has a doubly negative effect. The stored carbon is released, and it no longer can absorb carbon dioxide. Imagine what is happening as swaths of old growth forests around the world are being destroyed.

Deforestation also has a damaging effect on agriculture. Without roots to anchor the soil, and more exposure to sunlight, soil can dry out. Lack of trees also leads to soil erosion, and susceptibility to flooding.

Here are some sobering facts, from 

  • 80,000 acres of forests disappear from the earth every day.
  • Every 1.2 seconds, we lose an area of forest the size of a football field.
  • 46% of the world’s forests are already destroyed.
  • Tropical forest destruction accounts for 20% of the current GHG emissions.
So this week, our challenge is to reverse that trend!

Challenge 11: Plant a tree! 

And, if you have space, plant lots of trees! Maybe commit to planting a certain number per year, and reforesting unused portions of your land. 

There are government incentive programs to help you. See if you qualify for the 50 million tree program through Forests Ontario. If you have 10 acres of land available, you can become a managed forest, and get a tax break. There are also subsidies available for smaller scale planting, through Forest Ontario.

If you have no space, sign up to help your community plant trees, or donate to help someone else plant trees.

There are lots of organizations who will do this for you. Here’s a few:

  • one dollar, one tree planted. Or start your own fundraiser.
  • $5 per sapling planted.
  • The Nature Conservancy, Plant a Billion Trees initiative.
  • offers sustainably-made products/clothing, and will plant 10 trees with your purchase. To date, they’ve planted over 43 million trees.

Even if you have no outdoor space, add some potted plants to your home, or balcony. Even house plants can improve your air quality, and sequester carbon at the same time.

You may think that a few trees isn’t going to make that much difference. But, studies show that planting one trillion trees worldwide would potentially reduce greenhouse gases by two-thirds. The same analysis showed that there are 1.7 billion hectares of treeless land which would support 1.2 trillion saplings. They excluded farmland, and urban centres in their calculations. Planting trees would be one of the simplest, and cheapest ways to seriously address carbon emissions (and yes, of course, we also must stop putting so much carbon into the atmosphere in the first place!).

Remember that this same earth was once covered in toxic gases, and they were cleared away with the help of algae, which evolved into land plants, and then trees. And that paved the way for insects, animals and then humans. So, don’t underestimate trees and plants in the climate change battle. Forests are the lungs of our planet. So let’s get planting! And have a Happy Canada Day!

Yours in sustainability,
Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood

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