WORLD Communications Day (June 5) owes much of its significance to the humble tree – the source of the world’s paper supply, without which we would not be reading newspapers, books and the CatholicNews, just to name a few!

How apt that June 5 was also World Environment Day, especially as this year’s theme is Forests: Nature at your Service. 2011 is also designated International Year of Forests, by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Can you imagine life on Earth without grass, flowers or trees? Without forests, there would be no life on this planet. Yet, how we take trees for granted!

Living in urban Singapore, we may be forgiven for thinking that trees are good mainly for the shade they provide.

But did you know that an average tree can supply enough oxygen to keep a family of four breathing for a year? This same tree is also capable of absorbing 12 kg of carbon dioxide in a year. And, most importantly, only plants can produce enough new oxygen to support life on Earth.

One cannot over-emphasise the role tropical rainforests play. The diverse ecosystems found in forests, reflecting complex interdependent relationships among plants, animals and insects are a result of almost 100 million years of evolution.

Besides being the lungs of the Earth, forests are a refuge for wildlife and humans. Trees provide resources such as timber, fuel, rubber, paper and medicinal plants. They help sustain the quality and availability of fresh (rain) water supplies – think of our forested water catchment areas.

Trees also help in the conservation of soil and the control of erosion. And of course, without plants, where would we get our food from? You may not like to eat your vegetables but the animals you eat do need their grass.

There is also the sense of peace and wonder humans derive from experiencing the awesome beauty of the great wilderness, of the Creator’s loving touch.

And yet, as you read this, another acre of rainforest is being cut down. Each year, 36 million acres of natural forest are lost. Rainforests, once cut down, cannot be replaced! In addition, forest degradation accounts for nearly 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

To save our forests, we need to make changes in our lifestyle. Some suggestions:

Support causes such as UNEP, which encourages forest conservation and sustainable consumption. World Environment Day is an ongoing concern and is commemorated by nearly 100 nations worldwide. For example, the people of Australia are aiming to grow a billion new trees on their vast continent!

Plant more trees in our church compounds, schools, gardens and neighbourhoods.

Get to know your woods. Go for walks in our “green lung” areas such as the reservoirs and our only primary rainforest, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Take your children along.

Use less paper, print on both sides, re-cycle. It’s being done in schools, let’s do it in our parishes! Recycling bins can be prominently displayed and, as parishioners, we just have to do our part.

Think twice about discarding old furniture. If it’s still in one piece, donate it.

At the treetops walk near Macritchie Reservoir is a piece of Greek wisdom that says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” n

By Anne Lim
The writer is a parishioner of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a special interest in Creation Spirituality.

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