The tragedy of trees

| June 17, 2015 | 0 Comments

Fervent environmentalists are often derogatively called ‘treehuggers’. However, in a climate-conscious age, if your school is searching for some way to save the planet, you could do worse than cuddle up to a green giant. It’s a pretty splendid experience.

On 21 March, people around the world celebrated the International Day of Forests. A group of nature-lovers in Seoul, South Korea, decided to mark the day by breaking the world record for ‘largest tree hug in one minute’, previously made in Portland, Oregon, when 936 people hugged a grove of trees for one minute.

This year, more than 1 220 Koreans gathered in the National Arboretum. At a signal, they embraced a group of trees for a triumphant full 10 minutes.

South Korea has taken a decisive stand when it comes to reforestation. Extractive industries such as mining and logging, as well as the mid-20th century war, had left a scarred and bare countrywide landscape behind, shrouded in smog.

But over the last 20 years, the government urged citizens to participate in ‘green growth’. People everywhere relentlessly started planting fast-growing trees, and pretty soon the air was cleaner. Now the country offers ‘haute couture hiking’ to tourists and has extended a green hand to North Korea and Mongolia, where trees are also in short supply.

When you and your students have hugged enough of nature’s giants, you may want to explore global campaigns to protect the world’s forests. Our planet’s ‘green lungs’ are not only in the Amazon and Indonesia, but can be found in a variety of forms in a range of ecosystems. Dryland forests, for example, are to be found across 60% of the African continent. However, it’s mangrove swamps that are among the world’s most threatened vegetation types, despite the fact that they sequester significantly more carbon per hectare than tropical rainforests.

A new study, conducted by a team of 24 international scientists and funded by the National Science Foundation, has declared that the impact of human activity on forests on planet Earth is much more serious than we had ever imagined.

The study appeared in March 2015 in the journal Science Advances and is entitled “Habitat Fragmentation and its Lasting Impact on Earth’s Ecosystems”. Lead author Nick Haddad, a professor at North Carolina State University, said in interview: “There are really only two big patches of intact forest left on Earth – the Amazon and the Congo – and they shine out like eyes from the centre of the [world] map.”

The study found that the human inclination to build roads has a devastating effect on woodland areas. Says the International Energy Agency, more than 15 million new miles of road is planned for construction around the world in the near future.

Category: Winter 2015

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