13 Jan

Photo: MyJoyOnline

The indiscriminate cutting down of trees for either charcoal or fuel has been a centuries-old practice in most areas in Ghana as charcoal especially continues to be an alternative for cooking in most homes. The significant role that trees play in the fight against climate change can never be overlooked as trees are the natural carbon capture and storage machines that absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

For the purposes of understanding the context, let’s take a look at these three keywords: Deforestation: The permanent clearance of a forest, usually rapidly by cutting or burning over a large area, without replanting or natural regeneration. Reforestation: the act of planting new trees in an area where there used to be a forest. Afforestation: the process of planting areas of land with trees in order to form a forest. Some of the negative effects of deforestation include; climate change, desertification, flooding, soil erosion, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere among many others. Unfortunately, deforestation is more rampant than afforestation. This is the reason why reforestation and afforestation are touted as key solutions to the climate crisis.

Research by World Counts indicates that, by 2030, we might only have 10 percent of rainforest left and it can all disappear in a hundred years. Forests cover almost a third of the global land area and harbour most of the Earth's terrestrial biodiversity. Forests contain 60,000 different tree species, 80 percent of amphibian species, 75 percent of bird species, and 68 percent of the world's mammal species. What then is the future of biodiversity if the world keeps destroying forests and vegetation? New research in the prestigious Journal Nature estimates that “the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilization.”

Photo: WWF

The forests cover over 30% of the Earth’s land surface, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). On the other hand, in the last 25 years, the world’s forests shrank by 1.3 million square kilometers which means that since 1990 the world has lost more forest area than the size of South Africa. This is even more devastating in the tropics where almost half of the forests are left. With continuous demand for land, wood for charcoal and other furniture works, mineral extraction and agriculture, deforestation remains at its peak. In 2019, the BBC reported that an area of Amazon rainforest roughly the size of a football pitch is now being cleared every single minute, according to satellite data.

Here in Ghana, it’s a very worrying development at the northern part as inhabitants have started cutting down shea trees (trees that produce shea butter) for various purposes which in the end also affect livelihoods as it’s the most available income-generating activities for women in the northern part of Ghana and thus contributes immeasurably to household security.

This shows that the question still remains: How do we combat the climate crisis when the apparent reason for increased global warming lies within our very own actions? 

Interestingly, most countries across the globe have rolled out plans and policies to tackle the climate crisis but nonetheless, a lot needs to be done beyond just written documents. One solution lies in education for sustainable development. By educating citizens on the negative consequences of cutting down trees, people become more aware of the importance of placing trees that are cut and its contribution to the growing challenge of the climate crisis. It’s commendable that the Philippines have enacted a law called the “graduation legacy for the environmental act” that requires graduating students from elementary to college to plant ten trees each before they graduate. 

This I believe is worth emulating so as to get young children to understand the role that they can play in the green agenda as well as the importance of tree planting.

The climate crisis continues to roar its head and one of the surest ways of combating its destructive effects is through the planting of trees. Not only does it capture carbon, which purifies the air, but it also has the added benefits of preventing erosion, flooding and sustaining wildlife.In order to win the battle against the climate crisis, every individual effort counts. So why don’t you cultivate the habit of tree planting? This could even be done in your own backyard. Little drops of water, they say, makes a mighty ocean and your little effort could make a difference. Plant a tree today!

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