Environmentalism for the 21st Century

Trees Are The Answer

If trees are the answer, you might ask, what is the question? I believe that trees are the answer to a lot of questions about our future. These include: How can we advance to a more sustainable economy based on renewable fuels and materials? How can we improve literacy and sanitation in developing countries while reversing deforestation and protecting wildlife at the same time? How can we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere, carbon dioxide in particular? How can we increase the amount of land that will support a greater diversity of species? How can we help prevent soil erosion and provide clean air and water? How can we make this world more beautiful and green? The answer is, by growing more trees and then using more wood, both as a substitute for non-renewable fossil fuels and materials such as steel, concrete and plastic, and as paper products for printing, packaging and sanitation.

When the world’s leaders met in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 at the Earth Summit they agreed that three issues are at the top of the international environmental agenda. These are; climate change, biodiversity, and forests. Of course there are many other important issues, including toxic chemicals and nuclear waste, but they are secondary compared to these “Big Three”, all of which are global in nature. Unfortunately, most scientists, activists, and policy-makers have specialized in one or the other of these critical areas of concern, and have not focussed as strongly on the profound inter-relationships among them. This has resulted in a situation where most of the environmental movement has adopted a position on forests that is logically inconsistent with its positions on climate change and biodiversity. The risk of climate change is mainly due to fossil fuel consumption and the emission of CO2. The risk to biodiversity is mainly due to the loss of forests caused by clearing for agriculture and cities. A large part of the solution to both these issues involves growing more trees and using more wood. The environmental movement has adopted a policy that is the opposite of this approach.

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