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Sonoma County Gazette

For the Planet by Tish Levee
Love Knows No Boundaries - February 2018

Feb 1, 2018
by Tish Levee


Love Knows No Boundaries—loving the whole Earth and all creatures.

In line with this month’s theme, let’s talk about deforestation and how planting trees can reduce global warming and air pollution, while supplying habitat for living beings. Eighty percent of earth’s plants and animals live in forests, many of them threatened with extinction.

Wait—how can there be global warming with all the snow?

Many climate scientists and writers have replaced the term “global warming” with “climate change,” just because of this perception that record cold weather means the planet can’t be getting warmer. The numbers say differently; 2017 was the 3rd warmest year on record. The last five years have been the five warmest ones since 1880, when we started keeping records. As the planet warms, so do the oceans, air currents shift, and we see more and more exteme weather—heat waves, droughts, flooding, record-breaking cold, and etc. So, yes there is definitely global warming, and it’s getting worse.

So back to forests and trees—how does that figure in?

Trees can help reduce global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. They then store the carbon while emitting oxygen. So trees act as “carbon sinks,” drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sequestering it.

We’re losing a forest area the size of Panama annually.

Nearly 60,000 trees are lost daily, a loss responsible for 6-12% of all carbon dioxide emissions. While we often think of Indonesia and the Amazon in regards to deforestation, Canada and the US were 3rd and 4th in the loss of trees in 2009.

There’re many natural causes of deforestation, including droughts, insect infestations that kill trees, floods, climate change, and forest fires, as we are all too aware. But, there’re many not-so-natural causes, too. Large swaths of forest have been clear-cut and replaced with agriculture, grazing land for cattle, and plantations of palm oil trees, as well as for paper products.

The Good News—Reforestation. Every year Americans plant 1.6 billion trees, close to six trees for every one we use. Half of them are planted by lumber companies and cut down later. There are a number of programs for planting trees—google “tree planting organizations.” You can also look for local programs such as The Trees Project, founded in Middletown after the Lake County fires and Forest Unlimited here in Sonoma County. Also see the NovemberGazette’sarticle about gathering acorns to replant oak trees

What else can we do?

  • Use less paper. World consumption of paper has grown over 400% since 1971. Nearly 4 billion trees annually are cut down to make paper—35% of all trees cut. The US, with 5% of Earth’s population, uses 30% of its paper. One 500 sheet ream of paper uses 6% of a tree. Do we really need to print everything?
  • Buy recycled paper products. Most paper’s made from virgin pulp, but recycled paper accounts for 38% of the world’s total.
  • Toilet paper wipes out 27,000 trees a day. While recycled toilet paper is available, unfortunately, it’s usually contaminated with BPA, a known hormone disrupter and carcinogen. A couple of alternates are Emerald Brand’s Tree Free tissues and Who Gives a Crap’s bamboo tissue. I like the latter because they donate 50% of their profits to build toilets where there are none.
  • Besides writing paper and toilet paper, we use lots of other paper products. It takes17trees to make one ton of paper towels. Americans currently use over 13 billion pounds of them annually. Unfortunately recycled paper towels, napkins, etc. also contain BPA, as it’s found in receipts we recycle. Solution—switch to cloth. Use reusable cloth napkins and rags to clean up spills.
  • Eat less beef—large amounts of forest are lost to grazing land.
  • Palm oil is everywhere—in food, fast food, laundry detergents, cosmetics, and more. Especially when peat bogs are drained and burned to plant palm oil trees, the effects are disastrous. Look for sustainable palm oil or substitutes that are less harmful to the planet (ask google for more information).

Love trees—love the Earth.

 For the Planet - Tish Levee

© Tish Levee, 2018


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