Self Sustaining at Rio +20

Rather as I expected the Rio +20 summit on sustainable development has closed without advancing the practice of sustainable development by one jot, one title or one iota. The forests will shrink as they are plundered in developing countries, the seas will become deserts as they are shorn of life and filled with what billions of humans no longer need, and the greed of every interest group attending the summit set the scene: talk was cheap, the begging bowl was held out and commitment to anything was somewhere else. The only sustainable thing that has emerged from this Rio+ 20 summit is that there will be another summit in Rio again. That at least is self sustaining.

Changes in the Costa Rican Forest

In 1976 researchers started recording the different types of trees in the Costa Rican forest over a twenty year period. Over that period of time they found that some trees became more successful and others less successful. There was a very large reduction in the number of trees in the forest that they studied and a change in the types of trees. Smaller trees and saplings were less successful and larger deciduous canopy type trees were more successful. The nature of the forest changed. Continue reading

Save our forests

When the Romans first set foot in England they found a country that was virtually covered in trees. Apart from marshlands, which were subsequently drained, and grassy chalk down lands, forests were the prime feature of the English countryside. Today if you travel from London to the north along the M1 motorway it can be hard to imagine that great forests covered the countryside that you see today. By the time the Normans landed in 1066 the forest were still the predominant feature of the landscape. They were so large that outlaws could hide in them. The forests of England were deciduous woodlands, mainly oak. Continue reading

How forests may be affected by rising temperatures

Despite the best efforts of humanity forests still account for 30% of the world’s land surface area – roughly forty million square kilometres. Despite the importance of forests to our survival – they are huge carbon stores that can keep carbon dioxide from warming the planet too quickly – there are only not legally binding statements of principle about forests when what the world plainly needs is some legally binding way to prevent them from rapidly turning into grasslands and deserts. Continue reading

The woodlands that are under threat and why this is important

England was once virtually covered in trees, mainly hardwood trees like the oak and the elm. There were once large forests, like that at Sherwood, where Robin Hood became famous, that were almost impenetrable. Now Sherwood is a sad series of truncated pieces of woodland. The mighty oaks were felled to build a navies, and to make way for the intrusion of humans who now inhabit cities and towns and farms where once were trees. There are still woodlands in England which provide us with biodiversity and the benefits of trees and forests, which I have written about quite a lot in recent posts. Continue reading

Brazil and its forests which serve us all

Step by step, and taking very small steps, Brazil is planning to end its practice of permitting more trees to be cut down than are grown each year, and it plans so to do by 2015. Brazil will be trying to end illegal logging and consult on a national plan how its forests should be managed.

In some ways the plan will not make too much difference as it is based around planting more trees than are cut down, but cutting a large old tree creates more emissions, especially if the tree is burnt, than the immediate effect of planting a small new tree.

Deforestation in Brazil creates three quarters of its greenhouse gas emissions. Brazil has not signed up to Kyoto and has no targets for greenhouse gas reductions.

Trees are a national resource for Brazil and they have them in abundance. They exploit them for their own economic benefit. This enables some people to prosper, others to earn wages to feed themselves and their families and for the country to attempt to develop itself into a wealthy country, like perhaps England, whose large deciduous forests were cut down five or six hundred years ago.

But development in the tropical rain forest causes damage to the local eco systems and to the people who live in the Brazilian forests. There are more species of plants and animals in any single hectare of tropical rain forest than there are in the whole of the United States and Canada.

Trees are also an international resource, holding huge stores of carbon and creating in places like Brazil an incredible variety of life forms many of which are used to improve human health and cure or alleviate illness. They should be preserved, because preserving them creates benefits for the whole of humanity, not least in helping the problem of climate change.

And that is why it must be right for the rest of humanity to help Brazil preserve these trees and forests without losing the economic benefits of the. The only way to do this is for the rest of humanity to make it more valuable for Brazil (and the other nations with large areas of forests) to preserve and enhance their forests, rather than crop them and turn them into temporary farmland. Providing such an incentive would not cost the world much, and may well be an important factor in saving it.