Waking up to reality

January 16, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

What does it take to awaken people to the real world?   

Literally millions of young folk in cities world-wide took to the streets demanding the goverment addresses the problem of global warming causing climate change.  Receding glaciers and melting polar ice caps along with decades of warnings by scientists haven’t had sufficient effect on a complacent society.  Hopefully striking school kids, their parents and closure of many participating businesses will draw people’s attention to a rapidly changing planet, at least enough to evoke actions toward alleviating the emergency.

Canadians were swamped by election promises, each involving the expenditure of tax dollars involving pledges for spending mass amounts of money, usually in the far-off future.  

One item that didn’t appear to have hit the news to any great extent is the government’s intent to plant two billion trees over the next ten years, suggesting action which one assumes must be taken immediately if the goal has even a hope of being implemented. Two billion over ten years translates into 200 million annually starting in 2020, i.e. next spring.

 This seems impossible but actually is doable.   In the past when reforestation was a feature of Ontario’s ecological history, nine tree nurseries produced over thirty–five million seedlings annually before premier Mike Harris and his Conservative government cancelled provincial tree-planting.  Nurseries surviving the 1996 purge were closed down in 2019 by the Ford government in Queen’s Park.    The pledge of planting by the Ottawa government, (Ontario being one of five regions would be expected to plant 40 million per year) is the first indication that the nation’s  prime minister is prepared to respond to the demands of the protesting multitude who marched the streets in Canadian communities demanding government take action toward controlling global warming.  Youth marches in cities and towns took place across the continent. With the exception of the prime minister’s tree planting pledge, most leaders  appeared to ignore the subject.

The closure of provincial nurseries had other economic effects.  Closure of nurseries created significant unemployment of tree production staff in those nine communities but even more so across the province with reduction of reforestation projects.   Loss of the Ontario tree seed plant in this region eliminated the need for collection of tree seeds throughout the province. Elimination of employment opportunities coupled with failure to achieve forests’ potential ecological benefits adds to the country’s failure to control global warming as agreed at the Paris meeting. 

Tree planting has been shown as a major tool in affecting ecological balance.  Plantations in watersheds surrounding the Great Lakes such as Limestone Lake north of Red Rock and another north of Beardmore now contribute to the stability of Lake Superior.  Kirkwood Forest north of Thess–alon, and local plantations of Simcoe and Dufferin counties  to help regulate water levels of Lake Huron are other examples.

Forests provide access for precipitation to augment aquifers, reservoirs which regulate streams, hence year-round surface flows of water.  More important, as crowns develop they increase nature’s ability to extract carbon from the atmosphere.   It takes a couple of decades for plantations to develop tree crowns to achieve their photosynthetic potential.  While tree planting does not have an immediate effect on absorption of atmospheric carbon it is an effective tool in the long run.  The key is the ecological benefit of increasing tree canopies of new forests while protecting existing ones.

Storage of carbon from the atmosphere in the form of wood is one of nature’s less-recognized functions on our behalf.  A common statistic in forestry terms is production of a two-cord increment of wood per acre achieved by managed forested lands.  A cord of wood generally weighs about one ton, composed of about 50% carbon, meaning an acre of managed forest land increases storage of approximately a ton of carbon through the addition of an annual ring of wood on every tree, every growing season.

Political leaders need to be reminded that the hundreds of thousand young folk who took to the streets protesting inaction pertaining to global warming will be of voting age by the next election.  The pledge for increasing forest cover is one powerful step toward countering the problem.


Share Button

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.