Nature as a guide

July 5, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Doug Skeates

There was a time when governments subsidized farmers to eliminate hedge rows so as to  create broader fields hence increasing crop productivity and facilitating mechanization.  

Twenty years later, power structures and the agricultural industry realized the value of hedge rows and subsidized farmers to replace rows of shrubs and  wild flowers encouraging birds to provide natural insecticides for crops.  One experience on a forestry project in Guyana showed the dairy farmer that shelterbelts not only provided winter shelter for his cattle, the original intent for reforestation, also contributed to more lush pasture resulting in increased milk production from the herd.

A recent Facebook entry related the initiation of Japanese research work, establishing strips of wild flowers through farm fields providing natural habitat for natural predation, reducing landowners dependence on costly artificial chemicals.  Bees that forage over many miles from their hives are less vulnerable, continue to provide pollination of crop plants with reduced hazard caused by non-selective chemical insecticides.

Nature is basic to all life on the planet., plant and animal.  Daylight, the essential catalyst  of photosynthesis, provides foliage which extracts carbon from the atmosphere combining it with ground water to form hydrocarbons.  The most prominent foliage is found in trees and the Ontario government has estimated that there are 87 billion  of them occur in Ontario alone.  Trees  provide food, energy, carbon sinks and conservation of water, the latter being the essential component of all plants. 

Carbon emissions are the most pressing problem facing mankind today.  Reduction of carbon in the atmosphere is the most prominent issue in the world today.  The human race is placing a high priority on controlling the rate at which pollution is increasing.  However there is not adequate action to eliminate existing greenhouse gases causing global warming, a function which trees already help to provide.  There is a great need to increase the area of forest cover if we are to control the rate of climate change.  Reforestation is one solution but an even greater one is to better manage existing forests.  Every acre of managed forests contributes two additional chords of wood  in the form of  annual rings each year, stored carbon extracted from the atmosphere.

Management of land is the primary means of countering this threat.  Increasing nature’s primary function through additional forest cover including protection of existing trees and establishment of new ones, is an essential policy regardless of the ownership of land.   Government has little control over productivity on private land. But policies must be found to encourage private forest management initiatives.  However, the power structure has control over resource management of vast areas of crown land and the opportunity to create its primary goal of increased employment, particularly for youth.

Tree roots provide a major function directing a proportion of precipitation into underground aquifers reducing run off and flooding, regulating water from such reservoirs into surface bodies of water, lakes, rivers and wetlands.  In many parts of the planet these form the basis for agricultural productivity, adding to food yields and alleviating poverty levels through increasing production of food for both local consumption and increasing the economy beyond the farm.  The most important forest product in today’s world is no longer wood for lumber and newsprint but for functions modifying the climate and rehabilitating marginal lands

An interesting local project was the Boyne valley property of the Toronto Board of Education.  One building was built into a side hill with soil bulldozed to form a cover over the roof.  That plus a central fireplace fuelled by biomass from the property,  reduced the amount of energy required for heating.  Windmills on the hill and the flow of water through a turbine in a stream from a dam in a stream from an adjacent pond supplied the electrical energy for lighting purposes.  One room was devoted to glass towers where all the waste water from the building flowed.  A population of snails in each tower purified the water which passed from one tower to the next.  The final tower was considered safe for human consumption. 

Nature is already serving solutions to many of the problems facing mankind.  It is up to us  to make better use of nature’s guidelines.

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