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March 03, 2018

Plant More Trees!

changes_forest_cover_456Recently, mass media in Myanmar is teeming with news about extreme weather conditions_ drought, hailstorm, sudden gale , scarcity of water and very high temperature. Most cities across the country are recording 40 °C ( 104 °F) and above temperatures this month. People have to endure unbearably intense heat for days. Some people put blame on the El Nino, one of the strongest in the world. But one of the most influencing factors is beyond notice. It is gradual depletion of plants and trees throughout the country.
Nearly forty years ago, in my hometown, when I began my first school days, there were lots of shady trees beside the roads. In those days, people went from place to place mostly on foot and took a rest under a shady tree and drank water from the pot on a stand under it. Thus they got relief from fatigue and heat.
Nowadays , in urbanization process, flats and buildings are springing up like mushrooms while plants and trees are disappearing like a cloud driven by the wind. People of the past loved planting and nurturing trees. They were reluctant to cut down and destroy them. They liked to cool themselves in natural ways. By contrast, people of the present day no longer regard trees and plants as valuable things. They tend to uproot them more easily and readily than before. They rely more  on electronic goods instead _ electric fans, air coolers and air-conditioners.
I am not implying that we should stop using these luxury goods neglecting the benefits of modern technology. I would like to highlight that we are depending on technology more often than necessary.
We should love the environment as equally as technology.
Today our planet earth is getting hotter and hotter year after year. Scientists are warning that the global warming is accelearting faster than before. The carbon dioxide ( CO2 ) gas accumulation in the atmoshere is getting higher and higher. World’s leaders are also gathering up and seeking  an agreement in Climate Change Conference, which is  annually held by the United Nations.
Trees and plants do good to the environment through photosynthesis, a process that captures light energy to produce nutrients in the presence of the chlorophyll using carbon dioxide and water with the by-product of oxygen. But, in respiration , they take in oxygen for burning nutrients to produce energy for growth and metabolic processes with by-products of carbon dioxide and water. Considering the net production of oxygen and the net removal of carbon dioxide, plants and trees  are indeed conducive to the health of the earth and its inhabitants. According to Environment Canada, Canada’s national environmental agency, one tree produces , on average, nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year , and two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four.
It has been learnt that about 30-40% of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by human activities is absorbed by world’s oceans.  The more concentration of the atmospheric carbon dioxide, the more they dissolve in the oceans.  This paves the way for an abnormal condition called ocean acidification_ the decrease in the pH value of Earth’s oceans_ disrupting the ecosystem of marine life especially corals, jumbo squid, blue mussels, oysters, lobsters and pteropods. Here we must note that the oceans are really basic ( alkaline ) and will always remain so despite the name ‘ocean acidification’.
World Resources Institute (WRI ) has said in a research  that ‘30 percent of global forest cover has been cleared, while another 20 percent has been degraded. Most of the rest has been fragmented, leaving only about 15 percent intact’. World’s deforestation accelerated in the process of industrialization and urbanization. Even though there is annual loss of forest cover area in the world, the global rate of deforestation is now slowing thanks to conservation and reforestation programs across the globe.
But, urban deforestation has now, I think, become a challenging problem for most cities all over the world. We should plant more trees in the urban areas and conserve the existing ones. American Forests, Washington-based non-profit conservation organization founded in 1875, has published on its website the benefits of urban reforestation:  Urban forests help
(1) to purify the air we breathe
(2) to manage city’s water
(3) to reduce energy demand
(4) to improve the urban experience for its residents
(5) to mitigate  climate change
(6) to make communities adapt to climate change
(For more detailed explanation, please visit their website: )
In our country, Myanmar, there is noticeable depletion of plants and trees in the urban areas these days. When temperature soared to extreme highs in most cities, there was sudden surge in energy demand , triggering the system breakdown now and then in national power grid. So we must try to plant right types of plants and trees in the right places at the right times. Recently I happened to read a volunteer’s Facebook post saying that he would donate ‘shade’ to those in need and that if asked for, he would volunteer to plant trees for his fellow townsfolk. I envy his goodwill and everybody ought to follow his example.
We must teach our children to love and care plants and trees. Local authorities and civil societies would  have to collaborate on the projects of urban reforestation and conservation. We must avoid activities damaging our surroundings. We should start this green campaign sooner rather than later. For a better place to live,  plant more trees!


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