The lungs of the Earth
Jamaica's forest areas are home to several endemic trees, 31 species of birds, and 21 species of bats.

From time to time we have found reason in this space to point to the life-giving worth of trees.

It's not for nothing that environmentalists often describe trees as the "lungs" of the Earth. Such vegetation facilitates the preservation of air quality.

Trees combat global warming by absorbing harmful carbons released by the burning of fossil fuels — which has increased exponentially with industrialisation over the last 200 years — while providing clean oxygen.

Our environmental watchdog, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), has on occasions reminded people — perhaps not often enough — that mature trees are crucial in the provision of shade, water retention, water evaporation, and transpiration as well as carbon sequestration.

"Additionally," NEPA has said, "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."

All of this underline the need for natural forests to be retained, and, crucially, that comprehensive, wide-ranging tree planting happen as a matter of course in this country and everywhere else on the planet.

Sadly, the ongoing evidence is that the opposite is happening, usually for commercial reasons. Hence, the increasingly anxious calls by environmental scientists for those in authority to take urgent corrective action.

Articles in yesterday's edition highlight the problem — pointing to the denudation of forests by those cutting down trees for purposes such as sticks/poles used to better nurture and grow yam tubers, charcoal burning, and for jerking meat.

It's a problem that dates back generations but is now getting worse.

Also, the gradual reduction in forested areas is proving very damaging to endemic species, among them the Jamaican Blackbird which, startlingly, is said to be under threat of extinction. We hear that the Jamaican Blackbird — which thrives best in dwindling natural forests such as the Cockpit Country and the Blue Mountains — should not be confused with other types of black birds we are accustomed to seeing.

The obvious answer to all of the above challenges — as is pointed out by those quoted — is to replant trees.

"When you remove one tree, you plant three more…" said NEPA's Ms Andrea Donaldson.

Wisely said, but not so easily done, given the tendency towards selfish, short-term personal gain at the expense of everything else.

Yet, there is no other way. The authorities must set the tone by way of the Forestry Department, NEPA, other government agencies, private voluntary agencies, et al, by planting trees in every available space, all the time, not just on Labour Day. Such projects must also be carefully nurtured to ensure trees actually grow.

Crucially, the populace must be told, by whatever means available, over and over, of the absolute necessity of trees, if life as we know it is to be sustained.

We think it useful to restate something we said here in May. We said then that those with knowledge should "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".

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at


  1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
  2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
  3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
  4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
  5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:
  6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:
  7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

Which long-term investment option is more attractive to you at the moment?