When we talk about environment, we often have the image of a tree that appears in our mind. The majestic plant that covers more than 30% of the planet is indeed the symbolic incarnation of ecology. But where do trees come from and why do we need them so much? Why are we so dependent on them? And why should their fate be, more than ever, a priority in our eyes?
Man has a somewhat ambiguous relationship with trees. While some people worship them and confer powers on them, others cut them down and are indifferent to their fate. Understanding their history, their functioning; their usefulness is essential if we hope for a collective awareness of the need to preserve them.
History of trees
Archaeopteris is the name of the first known tree that lived 370 million years ago. Since then, trees have evolved into 100,000 different species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Today, there are no less than 3000 billion trees on the surface of the Earth. Trees still fascinate people by their size and longevity. The highest of them would have been seen in 1872 in Australia and culminated at 132 meters, a limit impossible to exceed for irrigation reasons. The Old Tjikko, the oldest of the forests, is located in Sweden and would have emerged from the ground 9550 years ago!
In a tree, nothing is lost, everything is transformed…
Trees are very present in our daily life. Urban ecology, also known as plant urbanism; calls upon the beauty of trees to make them elements of decoration. But also for their properties in terms of attenuation of noise pollution and especially air pollution. Pollution peaks are frequent in urban microclimates. Another beneficial dimension to the integration of a green space in urban areas is the de-stressing effect of trees. According to a study published in Frontiers of psychology; spending 20 minutes in a park or green space is enough to reduce stress and anxiety.
Also, trees are exploitable from the roots to the branches. From its sap, which produces the famous maple syrup, to its fruits, its bark and of course its wood, the tree is a natural Swiss Army knife. Finally, it is worth remembering that 2.4 billion people cook their food with wood. Wood is also used for the foundation of the habitat of 1.8 billion people who live in a home of this kind. Thus, the wood market is worth more than 500 billion dollars per year, which is more than that of food, plastic and metal.
Forests are not only essential for mankind, but also for the fauna and flora. The best known of them, the Amazon, alone accounts for 80% of biodiversity. Today, there are no less than 3000 billion trees on the surface of the Earth. Scientists from 15 countries have joined forces to carry out the tedious counting process that combines field observation with satellite images. There would be about 422 trees per person. However, this figure is not impressive when you consider that our planet had 6,600 billion trees 12,000 years ago and that deforestation causes the felling of some 15 billion of them each year ….
We can only talk about deforestation when the disappearance of the forest is definitive. Today, 80% of deforestation is due to agriculture, from large-scale to more localized operations, where we speak of subsistence agriculture. Every second, 2400 trees are cut down. To this we must add fires and other natural disasters that affect the sustainability of trees. However, we must not neglect the harmful effects caused by the activity of Man and which lead to a climatic disturbance increasing the chances of ecocides.
The Amazonian forest, a natural treasure under threat
The Amazon rainforest covers an area of 5,000,000 square kilometers, ten times the size of France. Called the “Lung of the Planet” crosses nine countries including Guyana and Brazil. Within it, the gigantic forest is home to more than 2.5 million species of insects and 1,300 species of birds, or 1 in 5!
The Amazon is thus, as you will have understood, a true sanctuary for the fauna and the flora but not only. Indeed, in spite of their regrettable lack of consideration, populations still live in Amazonia.
But more and more, these populations see their future threatened. Particularly in Brazil; a country that has the largest variety of trees on its territory with no less than 8715 species, the most fervent opponents to deforestation are unfortunately more and more underground. Since taking office, Jair Bolsonaro has intensified deforestation in this region; by publicly advocating his support for intensive agribusiness. According to Imazon, deforestation in the Amazon increased by 54% in January 2019 compared to the same month last year.
These are 900,000 indigenous people and their ancestral practices; that are, more than ever, threatened in Brazil. Fervent opponent to the exploitation of eucalyptus that ravages the forests, Rosane Santiago Silveira was tortured and then murdered at her home in Nova Viçosa. At 59 years old and after 18 years of ecological activism and defense of human rights, Rosane has become, at the cost of her life, a figure of environmental defense
Trees: Acting for reforestation
Faced with the importance of trees, many actors have decided to invest fully in the preservation of forests. Indeed, the preservation of trees is a major stake. In particular to continue to benefit from their vital virtue such as the absorption of CO2 which allows to keep the carbon balance in balance. It is estimated that a tree stores a maximum of 35 kg of CO2 per year. However, as an example, a French person emits between 10.6 and 12.8 tons of CO2 per year, which is almost as much as a tree can store in a year. If we wanted to compensate the carbon footprint of all French people, we would have to plant more than 24 billion trees.
To fill this gap, initiatives have been created. This is the case of Ecosia, a search engine that reinjects a part of its profits in tree planting. Or EcoTree which proposes the original concept of investing in trees. Finally, there are several NGOs based in the four corners of the planet that you can support remotely. Notably WeForest with which Cleanfox is a partner!