Trees play a critical role to our existence on earth. They provide us with numerous products that we utilize in our daily lives, from food to furniture, paper to cosmetics and a host of products in between. Their aesthetic appeal is universal, and they make our world a much more beautiful place.
This year, we are marking the 12th observance of National Tree Planting Day and I am particularly pleased that this year, the Forestry Department is focusing on the role of trees in mitigating the negative effects of climate change under the theme, "Adapting to Climate Change...Secure our future, plant a tree today".
The quality of our atmosphere, and by extension, our climate, depends in great measure, on our trees and forest cover. Younger trees absorb carbon dioxide quickly while they are growing, but as a tree ages, a steady state of absorption is eventually reached. If trees are harvested carefully near maturity, and new trees are planted or allowed to regenerate, then this can keep the forest absorbing Carbon Dioxide on a steady basis, or in other words, becoming a net “sink” of carbon.
In addition, roots help to hold soil in place preserving the quality of the earth, and keeping our fresh water sources clean. In addition, trees help to create rain by expelling moisture into the atmosphere. That is why I have often repeated the phrase that “A forest is irreplaceable”.
Unfortunately, many of us do not recognize the importance of trees, so we cut and burn, with scant regard to replenishing their numbers and we build without any thought of preserving our green spaces.
If Jamaica is to preserve and conserve its natural resources including its forests, we cannot and must not continue like this.
I applaud the Forestry Department for taking the necessary steps to license persons who operate sawmills or trade in or store locally produced lumber. The regulation of the sawmilling industry will contribute to increased conservation and protection of the nation’s forest resources.
Development is good. We need to house our people, provide them with jobs and give them the necessary infrastructure to make their lives more comfortable. But development at the expense of the natural environment benefits no one.
Sustainable development is a catchword that we all need to become acquainted with, and to practice, so that our children and their children for generations to come, can reap the benefits of this beautiful land we call home.
That is why I welcome initiatives such as this National Tree Planting Day which help to create awareness about the vital role that trees play in our lives. I am pleased that the distribution of seedlings to mark this year's observance of National Tree Planting Day (NTPD) has already commenced at all Forestry Department nurseries and select offices across the island.
Last year, on the 11th renewal of the National Tree Planting Day, the Department distributed close to 50,000 seedlings to individuals and communities for planting islandwide. This was the largest number of seedlings distributed for any single tree planting event spearheaded by the Forestry Department. We hope to break that record this year.
Whether we are from government, the private sector, NGO’s, educational institutions, community groups, whether you live in the cities or the rural areas, we are all Jamaicans and we owe it to ourselves and to our children to be stewards of the forests and the natural resources with which we are all blessed.
Job 14 vs 7 says, “For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease”.
Indeed, the trees we plant on October 3, once properly maintained, will benefit our country tomorrow. May they thrive, and provide both hope and shade for many years to come.
Robert D. Pickersgill M.P.