Money Matters

Lifeline

Money Matters
By Danish Azar Zuby
Mon, 01, 22

They are busy saving the planet. A tree is perhaps the most miraculous design in nature. These tall and gentle creatures have been our silent neighbours since time immemorial.

Lifeline

They are busy saving the planet. A tree is perhaps the most miraculous design in nature. These tall and gentle creatures have been our silent neighbours since time immemorial.

They have been our life partners but we have taken their benevolence for granted for far too long. They are kind and generous towards all life form. They soak up carbon oxide that we breathe out and provide us with the oxygen we need.

They are like millions of free standing oxygen factories, plus scientific laboratories working efficiently night and day, capturing carbon from our automobiles-industries and through their roots pushing it down into the soil which is its right place.

Down below there are billions of micro-organisms who are waiting for carbon- to convert it to nutrients much needed for health of the soil. It makes earth happy. Carbon is not the bad guy when it is part of the natural cycle. The earth consumes carbon through the trees and its green cover. Trees can be our saviours if we let them live as our partners.

There are more than 60,000 species of trees identified by scientists, each one having its own personality and system. The way they add colour and beauty to the landscape is spectacular. Take for example a cherry tree. Each spring it produces thousands of colourful blossoms, only a few of which germinate, take root and grow.

Even the tree’s abundance is useful and safe. After falling to the ground, the blossoms return to the soil and become nutrients for the surrounding environment.

Every last particle contributes in some way to the health of a thriving ecosystem. There is no concept of waste in nature. Unlike humans, nature takes back what it produces when it is time.

Even in death the tree provides nourishment as it decomposes and releases minerals that generate new life. From blossom to sapling to magnificent old age, the tree’s growth is regenerative. This complex and efficient system of metabolism and creation found in nature is the body and soul of biodiversity. Biodiversity reminds us that we are all part of a larger web of life with an intricate and symbiotic relationship between millions of organisms, no two of which are alike. We are one big family, and trees are one of the most important crew members of our spaceship, Earth.

Like us, trees exist in communities. They support each other, they communicate, learn, adapt, thrive, and they perish. They live on a different time scale than we do. Old growth forests prove to us that trees can outlive us manifold, and this patience is exactly what allows them to thrive. For centuries humans have extracted food, medicine, construction materials and much more from trees.

Medicine extracted from the wood, bark, roots, leaves, flowers, fruits or seeds, is fundamental to the well-being of millions. Where access to modern pharmaceuticals is limited, trees offer living pharmacies open to anyone with traditional knowledge on their medicinal properties. An estimated 50,000 plant species are used medicinally, with global trade exceeding $60 billion per year. Within the plant kingdom, trees make a substantial contribution to this figure.

For common folks, tree shade is fabled while for the more romantic tree is a beautiful sculpture but softer in nature. Ever since we moved to our concretised cities, we invited trees to come help us survive in the harsh environment. So it was not just aesthetics, but we discovered many of the trees’ hidden functions. Trees increase resilience to pollution and natural disasters, help preserve natural biodiversity by creating habitat for countless species. Trees act like sponges absorbing storm water before releasing it to the atmosphere. The web of their roots holds the ground preventing against mudslides and erosion while allowing soil to retain water and filter out toxins. Trees help prevent floods reducing the need for storm drains.

The impervious ‘hard’ city structures absorb 9 times more solar radiation creating conditions of extreme heat and islands of severe heat, killing many. The urban heat combined with poor standards of sanitation can make cities a breeding ground for germs and disease. Unfortunately, the pressures of urbanisation are so great that the trees are being wilfully abandoned. The ‘concretisation’ of earth’s surfaces reduces the scope of trees. Lack of ‘green cover’ in the cities contributes to the poor air quality, causing many respiratory and mental illnesses.

Research has shown that green foliage has soothing effect on human brain, it increases attention span and decreases stress levels. In hospitals, the patients with a view of the garden green recover faster than patients facing a flanking wall. Green is a natural healer.

Fortunately, today the awareness of ‘green cover’ has increased considerably. In the early years of urbanisation, after the industrial revolution, people were yearning for trees. Town planners found ways of greening the cities. In the 1800s, Savannah, Georgia, and Oglethorpe had planned an entire town where no neighbourhood was 2 minutes’ walk from a park. Central Park in New York is 200 years old, an excellent example of mitigating the effects of urbanisation.

Today, Singapore is the best example of a country committed to green. Though it has urban outlook, it planted 1.2 million trees, reducing the load on energy intensive systems. It can be said that it is the greenest country in the world with 50 percent of its landmass covered with green and vegetation. But things are not so good in the less developed areas.

Studies indicate that the rate of deforestation today is frightening. We are losing 15-18 million hectares of forest cover every year, which translates into 2,400 trees cut every day. In 1750, the rate of deforestation was hardly 1 percent, today; we have achieved a staggering 31 percent in clearing off the green of the world.

This leads to soil erosion on a massive scale and threatens food security. Since the industrial revolution, we have destroyed 50 percent of the world’s forests. Some scientists claim that a major deforestation can lead to human extinction.

Though not an ultimate answer, the easiest and most economical solution today to mitigate the problems of climate crises is to increase our forest cover. To reduce human sickness and sufferings, to create a healing environment one has to minimise concrete and let the earth breathe again with the trees. Let the earth rejuvenate itself. Urban forests can become a stabilising force. It is common knowledge now that trees regulate our ecosystems and support our livelihoods. We have free healers onboard our spaceship, Earth, so let’s be kind to them.


The writer is a design consultant