The life-giving worth of trees
Timber trees

Many Jamaicans do not know that there are places on the planet where getting trees to grow is extremely difficult, even impossible.

Such ignorance perhaps explains why some destroy trees for no good reason.

We recall last October the nation's environmental watchdog, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), found it necessary to urge people to stop felling trees in protest demonstrations.

The outlandish practice of using fallen trees and whatever else angry protestors can find to block traffic is among the more antisocial aspects of modern Jamaica.

NEPA said last year that mature trees are crucial in the provision of shade, water retention, water evaporation, and transpiration as well as carbon sequestration — which has a cooling effect.

"Additionally, tree roots reduce soil erosion and increase water percolation and filtration, improving water quality and reducing risk of flooding and slippage or slope failure… This is of particular importance as more frequent and intense rainfall/weather events are being experienced as a result of climate change," NEPA said.

Of course, people do instinctively recognise the value of trees. That's why they will flee searing sunlight for tree cover without having to think about it.

Animals are the same. Any sensible cattle farmer in the tropics knows that a healthy pasture needs trees for cows to take refuge when the sun's rays become unbearable.

We are down this road as a result of Thursday's lead story focusing on the current heatwave which scientists seem to agree will get worse. That's not only because of the seasonal change to summer in mid-year, but also climate change — said to be accelerating due to human activity.

We hear that people are dying because of intense heat. Not just the elderly and people with serious health conditions are vulnerable. So are children, we are told.

There is alarming information that the intense heat can cause learning loss and worse.

We are told that, "If you compare the heart rate of a child after playing half an hour in the hot sun during lunchtime versus a child who plays in the shade, there is a 10 beats per minute difference in heart rate... That leads to fatigue and everything that comes from there. So, protect your children…"

Which brings us back to trees — a tried and proven coolant for as long as there have been humans on Earth.

We consider it timely that tree planting was central to Labour Day projects across the country on Tuesday.

As we understand it, thousands were planted along Highway 2000 — the National Labour Day Project. Many more would have been planted elsewhere.

We were pleased to hear from the Forestry Department — which helped in organising the national project as part of a several-years-old initiative to plant three million trees — that its mission is to grow them to maturity. That's important, since, without follow-up, Tuesday's projects would simply be wasted effort.

Beyond all that, there is the necessity for those with knowledge to refrain from assuming that people know. As much as possible, in schools, churches, community gatherings, everywhere… the word should be spread of the life-giving value of trees and the need to plant, nurture and preserve.

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