Christmas & biodiversity
Written by Oswaldo Muñoz, CEO.
A common way to measure biodiversity is to count the total number of species living within a particular area. Tropical regions that are warm year-round have the most biodiversity. Temperate regions, which have warm summers and cold winters, have less biodiversity. Regions with cold or dry conditions, such as mountaintops and deserts, have even less.
Generally, the closer a region is to the equator, the greater the biodiversity. Looking at vegetation alone, at least 25,000 different plant species live in Ecuador that straddles latitude zero, one of the most biologically diverse countries on the planet. In contrast, only about 2,800 live in Canada’s Quebec province.
Years ago, in an effort to save the natural forests the world over, selective lumbering became the rule of thumb to replace clear cutting, though as David Brower from the Earth Island Institute once put it, “It seems they didn’t quite get it right, when they thought that selective lumbering means select a country and lumber it.” And to add insult to injury, reforestation later came into the scene as a means of returning forested regions back to their original homeostatic state. As for the individual, “planting a tree” has become over the years the most famous cliché to prove that we love nature and protect it. Both don’t work and here’s why.
From experience, we see that trees in pristine forests cannot “stand for their rights” when the human species continues to clear cut them without remorse. Especially in tropical forests, as mentioned before, the trade-off is a joke when, in an area the size of two football fields harboring over 7,000 species of trees, a maximum of 12 reforested species come to the rescue, not to mention the decimation of countless other living creatures to the point of extinction. This could be called “the reforestation frenzy” that attempts to emulate what was originally there, resulting in trees void of their original “tenants” that lived symbiotically in the branches and understory. In short, reforestation is similar to dropping a neutron bomb in a city, leaving buildings intact while killing all living things. There are countless examples the world over of these “ghost towns” that, having once harbored many forms of life, are now just skeletons buried in the soil.
Certainly, people the world over have been misled as to the ability of humans to emulate what was originally there, in its entirety. It is also a matter of corruption, where short-sightedness and greed have led us to our own pitfall. Paraphrasing Shakespeare’s famous words in Hamlet: “To conserve or repair, that is the question. Whether ’tis easier to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous biological decimation, or to take arms against a sea of economic interests, and by opposing end them? To lie, too deep, no more; and by a lie to say we end the heart-ache and the thousand unnatural shocks that nature is heir to through “man’s nature”, ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wished by those whose irrational actions do not consider past and present atrocities as if the future will never come.”
In the spirit of Christmas, let’s reflect upon the following: What if Santa Claus lived in a tree house and, upon his return from delivering toys and joy, he would find it cut down? He surely wouldn’t be chanting “ho ho ho”, but rather “who who who destroyed my house!” Planting him a new tree, waiting for it to grow and expecting him to still be around to furnish and occupy it would obviously not work. To better bring this story into perspective, trees are more than just trees – they are tree houses – and they thrive in neighborhoods called forests. Though this may seem like a simplistic revelation, the obvious can sometimes go unnoticed, especially if you are lucky enough to keep your house! The recent wildfires in northern California will attest to this.
“Reforestation” and “planting a tree” are all right as a means of mitigating the harm that has already been done, but not as an excuse to continue to put into jeopardy natural forests in the hands of irresponsible lumbering and the incontrollable agro-industry that poisons us rather than feeds us, while we approach our own self-extinction.
Furthermore, consider the fact that we do not have to “sacrifice” a tree, decorating it only to throw it away later to celebrate Christmas. For instance, artificial trees can be used over and over again, sparing the life of trees still standing, while the lighting fixtures and multicolored bulbs can represent the biodiversity found in natural forests that give life to our planet. Moreover, it would save us money and a number of hassles, including the disposal of fallen trees. And most importantly, this tribute to life could flourish throughout the New Year. In this respect, almost 40 years ago, I constructed my own reusable Christmas tree that our family has used since, crowned with a star that shines year after year. It’s cut out of boards made from recycled sugar cane fiber. Any other alternate ideas are welcome!
But at this rate in the game, is there hope? Are we in time to correct our mistakes? Not even time will tell, but rather our present actions. And speaking of Christmas, the present is indeed a gift. Let’s not waste it. Open it. Santa will be pleased.