The earth is such a perfect closed self-sustaining system capable of harbouring life. It can be simplified to the analogy of a modest fish tank. A fish tank is associated with an accruement of intricate contraptions dedicated to making the tank habitable. Besides having the water and superficial decorations, it requires a filter mechanism, to remove suspended unusable waste that can prove to be harmful should it accumulate. It also requires a pump mechanism that needs to oxygenate the water for the fish to live. Earth works in a similar way, earth is the tank, the air our water, the humans and animals are the fish, whereas the humble tree tasks itself with the two most vital jobs; oxygenation and the filtering out.
Mother Nature had outdone herself with trees, their simple yet intricate design, stature and abilities. Trees are our very own macro-scaled pump and filtering system (which are entrenched in the monitoring and shaping of the carbon cycle), which when in large groups such as in forests and parks keep our air breathable, safe and in balance in terms of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. In these times of mass deforestation and large scale air pollution this carbon cycle perturbation is certain to throw a perfectly running system out of equilibrium.
We are all bombarded with information relating to climate change and the key role that carbon dioxide plays in steering the earth into climatic disaster. We all have a general understanding of the key role of carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis, making it an important gas for supporting life. Photosynthesis is a process by which autotrophic (self-sustaining) organisms are able to manufacture their own food. We are therefore by default given a way in which the rising carbon emissions can be counter-acted. Through the increased distribution of large photosynthetic organisms i.e. trees.
Many tree planting projects, such as the Greenpop and Greenworks initiatives in Africa, have been implementing tree planting and forest rehabilitation project schemes in order to undo the deforestation and habitat loss associated with human expansion. They are increasing the ability of that country to decrease its carbon dioxide load and allowing for the carbon cycle to re-equilibrate itself. What this means for large carbon dioxide producers and associated climate change policy makers is that a way for maintaining the carbon cycle whilst allowing for monitored, sustainable growth of the economy is provided till appropriate renewable and “clean” energy production infrastructures are the norm.
An ever growing human population and the increased burning of fossil fuels can be brought back to the simple fish tank analogy. The more fish you add to a fish tank, the more there needs to be an account for the increased waste and debris they produce and the higher demand for breathable oxygen, therefore more pumps and filters need to be added. This is the same for humans, we have created a world in which our carbon dioxide dumping is not counter-acted by much as the plants present can only take up so much at a time. We are creating a large atmospheric carbon dioxide sink which we keep dumping into and not taking away from. Planting more trees can counter-act this and by doing so aid in the plight to decrease the climate change that is brought about by this simple greenhouse gas.
The annual Conference of Parties (COP) is an international level meet by where world leaders, climate change role players and analysts converse and raise an agenda and the manner in which this can be implemented by the relevant parties with regards to environmental and climate change. The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) held in Paris later this year seeks to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. Trees and their ability to reduce this one greenhouse gas coupled with the legal parameters at which countries can emit will undoubtedly decrease climate change.
Planting trees is not the final answer, but is an important step to the fight against anthropogenic carbon dioxide increase and climate change. It however stands as our current vital act in order to ensure the habitability of earth for current species and us. So let the masses plant trees, and fight climate change.
By Kgothatso Skosana
Reference for pictures