Are you planting trees this Arbor Week?

Trees really are the bee’s knees. Without trees we would not have fruit to eat, shade to cool us down on those hot spring days, wood for fires, wood for furniture, oxygen to breathe and paper to draw on, write on or print on.

Did you know that nearly 4 billion trees are cut down around the world just for paper consumption? (This equates to roughly 35% of the total trees cut around the world). Luckily, many of the trees used for paper come from tree farms which are planted and replenished for paper usage.

But what about the billions of trees needed to combat the “Greenhouse Effect”? The phenomenon known as the Greenhouse Effect comes about when the rays of the sun are absorbed by “greenhouse gases” such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone and methane. These greenhouse gases regulate our climate by trapping heat and holding it in a kind of warm-air blanket that surrounds the planet.Without this warm-air blanket, scientists estimate that the average temperature on Earth would be colder by approximately 30 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit), far too cold to sustain life on earth.

So what do trees have to have to do with the “Greenhouse Effect” anyway? Well, trees act as carbon sinks. Trees use carbon dioxide and give off oxygen in its place, which helps to create the optimal balance of gases in the atmosphere. As more forests are logged for timber or cut down to make way for farming, there are fewer trees to perform this critical function.

It is estimated that our planet needs at least 321 million acres of trees to restore and maintain the productivity of soil and water resources, meet industrial and fuel-wood needs in the third world, and annually remove from the atmosphere roughly 780 million tons of carbon as the trees grow.The planting 100 million trees could reduce the amount of carbon by an estimated 18 million tons per year and at the same time, save consumers millions each year on utility bills.

In short, the world really needs trees.  Every year there is one day dedicated on our calendar to do our part to plant trees, this is known as Arbor Day.

So what is Arbor Day?

Arbor Day originated in 1872 in the United States territory of Nebraska. A man by the name of Mr. J. Sterling Morton (a newcomer to the treeless plains of the region) was keen to promote the beauty and benefit of trees. He persuaded the local agricultural board to set aside a day for planting trees. He signed on the task as editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper and encouraged community participation in the event by publishing articles on the value of trees for soil protection, fruit, shade and building. Mr. Morton’s home, known as Arbor Lodge, was a testament to his love for trees and so inspired the name of the international tree planting anniversary known as Arbor Day.

The first South African Arbor Day was first celebrated in 1983. The event captured the imagination of people who recognised the need for raising awareness of the value of trees in South African society. Trees are used as sources of building material, food, medicine and simple scenic beauty. Trees play a vital role in the health and well-being of our communities. Enthusiasm for the importance of this issue in South Africa inspired the national government to extend the celebration of Arbor Day to National Arbor Week in 1999. From 1 to 7 September every year, schools, businesses and organisations are encouraged to participate in community “greening” events to improve the health and beauty of the local environment and propose a greener future for South Africa.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (the custodian of forestry in South Africa) is responsible for the annual Arbor Week campaign.  The aim of Arbor Week is to promote and create a better life for all. The theme for Arbor Week for 2011 is “Forest for people”.

The Common Tree for 2011 is the Pappeacapensis (Jacket-plum / Doppruim) and the 2 Uncommon Trees for 2011 are the Genus Pavetta (Bride’s Bush / Bruidsboom) and Nuxiacongesta (Common Wild Elder / Gewonewildevlier).

So do your part and plant some trees this Arbor week!

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Henno Kruger

Digital Marketing Campaign Coordinator at Junk Mail Publishing.

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