Save the Nayong Pilipino trees!

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - May 13, 2021 - 12:00am

A midst all the news about political debates, the COVID 19 crisis and the rising unemployment, there was one small news item that seemed to have been ignored. This is the plan to cut down hundreds of trees in Nayong Pilipino and construct a vaccination center.

This may seem like a non-issue to many people. The fact is that in this urban concrete jungle called Metro Manila, the last remaining forest land is going to be cut down. True, we need vaccination centers; but problems cannot be solved by creating a much bigger long-term problem. Surely there must be other places other than this “…thriving urban forest that hosts a variety of urban wildlife and is the last remaining grassland in the reclaimed area of Parañaque.” This is according to the Nayong Pilipino Foundation.

It is not an exaggeration to say that humanity is in the midst of a struggle to fight plunging the world into a climate disaster. There are many weapons and tools in the fight; but trees have a significant role. That is why there is now an international outcry to plant trees and even start urban farms.

What is the value of one tree? In his book How To Avoid a Climate Disaster, Bill Gates answers a few questions:

How much carbon dioxide can a tree absorb in its lifetime?

It varies, but a good rule of thumb is 4 tons over the course of 40 years.

How long will the tree survive? If it burns down (or is cut down) all the carbon dioxide it was storing will be released into the atmosphere.

In what part of the world will you plant the tree? On balance, trees in snowy areas can cause more warming than cooling because they’re darker than the snow and ice beneath them and dark things absorb more heat than light things do. On the other hand, trees in tropical forests cause more cooling than warming because they release a lot of moisture which becomes clouds which reflect sunlight.

Gates then writes: “…the math suggests you’d need somewhere around 50 acres worth of trees, planted in tropical areas, to absorb emissions produced by the average American in his lifetime… Trees have all kinds of benefits, both aesthetic and environmental, and we should be planting more of them. For the most part, you can get trees to grow only in places where they are already, so planting them could help undo the damage by deforestation. But there is no practical way to plant enough of them to deal with the problem caused by burning fossil fuels. The most effective tree-related strategy for climate change is to stop cutting down so many of the trees we already have.”

The most effective place to plant trees is in areas where emission from human and fossil fuels is highest. This means that we should guard every tree in urban areas where emissions are highest.

All cities will be affected by climate change; but coastal cities like Metro Manila will have the worst problem. Climate change will just exacerbate the problems cities are already struggling with – poverty, homelessness, health care, education and many more.

Countries must protect and enlarge its natural defenses against climate change. Gates writes: “Forests store and regulate water. Wetlands prevent and provide water for farmers and cities. Coral reefs are home to the fish that coastal communities depend on for food.  But these and other natural defenses against climate change are rapidly disappearing. Nearly nine million acres of old growth forests were destroyed in 2018 alone and when – as is likely – we hit 2 degrees Celsius of warming, most of the coral reefs in the world will die off.”

Environmentalists have warned that we must restore ecosystems. This includes forests and watersheds. Planting mangroves is much cheaper than building breakwaters. Certainly, planting mangroves along the shores is much, much better than spending hundreds of millions trying to create an artificial beach. If we cannot replant trees, then let us, at the very least, stop cutting them down.

Deforestation is one of the biggest causes of carbon emissions throughout the world. According to the World Bank, the world has lost more than half a million square miles of forest cover since 1990. There is the immediate and obvious impact of deforestation – if the trees are burned down or cut down, they quickly release all the carbon dioxide they contain. There are other unseen effects.

When you take a tree out of the ground you disturb the soil and it turns out there is a lot of carbon stored up in the soil than in the atmosphere and all plant life combined. When you start removing trees, that stored carbon gets released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

One way of preventing a climate disaster is that each one of us must try to save trees in whatever way we can. Just like the community pantry, we do not personally have to save a rain forest. Let us try to save every single tree we can save and together we may yet contribute to saving the world from climate disaster.

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Writefest2021, our annual six-session workshop runs from May 17-28 (MWF, 3-4:30 p.m.) with guest authors Sarge Lacuesta and Mookie Katigbak. Facilitators are Kim Derla and Roel SR Cruz.

Young Writers’ Hangout via Zoom on May 22, 2-3 p.m. with Write Things alumna Mica Magsanoc. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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