New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill - wide footpaths & no overhead power lines.

New Canterbury Road Dulwich Hill – wide footpaths & no overhead power lines.

New Canterbury Road on the side of the powerlines.  Hot!

New Canterbury Road on the side of the powerlines. Hot!

Today is International Day of Forests. 

Forests occupy one third of the Earth’s land area.  13-million-hectares of forest are destroyed annually accounting for 12-20% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.  Half of the world’s forests have been lost in less than 100-years, which is quite shocking in my opinion.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry says, “Australia has 149 million hectares of forest. Of this, 147 million hectares is native forest, dominated by eucalypt (79%) and acacia (7%) forest types, and 1.82 million hectares is plantations. With an estimated 4% of the world’s forests, Australia has the world’s sixth-largest forest estate and the fourth-largest area of forest in nature conservation reserves.

“As much land has been cleared in the last 50 years in Australia as was cleared in the previous 150 years. For the year of 1990, land clearing in Australia totaled more than half of that which was cleared in Brazilian Amazonia. Land cleared in Australia in 1994 was equal to that which was cleared in the previous five years. (This included 640,000 hectares of virgin bushland.)”  http://bit.ly/1dfpfZ3

Here are some of the points covered in United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s statement for 2014.

  • “Forests are the lungs of our planet.  They cover one third of all land area and are home to 80 per cent of terrestrial biodiversity. 
  • It is estimated that 1.6 billion people depend on forests for food, fuel, shelter and income. 
  • The World Health Organization estimates that between 65 and 80 per cent of people rely on medicines derived from forests as their primary form of health care. [Again, a quite shocking statistic].
  • Forested catchments supply three quarters of freshwater, which is essential for agriculture, industry, energy supply and domestic use.
  • The International Day of Forests is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of all types of forests and trees to our economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being.  However, awareness must be coupled with concrete action.”  For the full speech see –

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2014/sgsm15706.doc.htm

‘The Conversation’ has just published an interesting article on the Federal Government’s plan to delist around 74,000 hectares from Tasmania’s World Heritage.  It seems appropriate to include in this post. – http://bit.ly/1dsykbD

An earlier article from this month says, “a key advisor to the World Heritage Committee has flagged concerns with the Federal Government’s plan to delist 74,000 hectares of Tasmania’s World Heritage Area.”  This is worth reading too. – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-13/heritage-area-reduction-plan-concerns-world-heritage-committee/5318182

I can find no mention of the urban forest or of any planting events across Australia, though there must be at least some schools participating somewhere.  To me this is a missed opportunity to educate & enthuse the community regarding the importance, as well as the benefits of urban trees.  Even one tree planted with celebration would be better than ignoring the day completely.

Last week someone on Twitter shared with me that 8-10 newly planted street trees had been planted on one day in Newtown – then poisoned overnight.

While this kind of behaviour is not the norm, tree vandalism happens frequently enough to be of concern.  Not only does it waste significant amounts of rate-payers money, it also often prevents replacement trees being planted as quite understandably, Councils do not want to waste more money planting replacement trees when there is a high chance they will be poisoned again.  They also have a budget for street tree planting & when the money runs out, no more trees can be planted until the following year.  The vandal wins & the community loses.

I speak to many people when they see me photographing street trees.  An alarming number have negative opinions of the tree outside their home or the trees in their street.  The most common complaint is leaf litter or litter from dropping seeds.  When I try to discuss the benefits this tree brings them, including the increased value to their property, I usually get greeted with sneers & a dismissal of the tree.  Most would happily lose the tree if they could.

To me this is a kind of emergency in Marrickville municipality.  It means that trees get poisoned or undermined in a range of ways & this is likely to prevent Council successfully increasing the urban forest.  If our urban forest does not increase significantly, I believe we will be in real trouble in the years ahead.

Australia is breaking weather records like crazy over recent years & the temperature is increasing.  Without a decent urban forest we are going to have problems with heat, heat stress & the health impacts from heat stress.

In 2009, 374 Victorians died as a result of a heatwave.  http://bit.ly/1l6B2eN

The death rate from heatwaves is higher than our worst bushfires & every year they cause more deaths in Australia than any other type of natural disaster.  Extreme heat events are responsible for more deaths annually than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.http://bit.ly/1g47YBt   An astounding 52,000 people died as a result of the 2003 European heatwave.

A Climate Council report called ‘Australian Heatwaves: Hotter, Longer, Earlier and More Often,’ released in February 2014 found the following –

  1.    “Hot days, hot nights and heatwaves are one of the most direct consequences of climate change.
  2.   Heatwaves have increased across Australia.
  3.    Climate change is making many extreme events worse in terms of their impacts on people, property, communities and the environment. This highlights the need to take rapid, effective action on climate change.
  4.  Record hot days and heatwaves are expected to increase in the future.”

All those hard surfaces will retain the day’s heat & radiate it back out at night keeping the nighttime temperature high.  This impacts on how we sleep & for some, if they can sleep.  Air-conditioning will need to be used more just to be comfortable, resulting in more carbon output.  There are many in our community who cannot afford to have air-conditioning installed.

Trees keep the streets & our homes cool for free if they have a decent sized canopy & are planted in the right places around our homes.  All we need to do is plant them, water them & nurture them.  The rewards for us are manifold & I am not even considering the wildlife, who I believe have an equal stake in the environment as we do.

If Councils do not start to seriously educate the community on the value of trees we may find ourselves in a situation trying to increase the urban forest in times when it is much harder & more costly to keep a tree alive.

World days like the International Day of Forests are a perfect opportunity to educate in a way that is non-threatening & can include an element of community building, pride building & fun.  The question in my mind is why is this not happening?  Even the UN has relegated the day to an awareness-raising event.  It will fly by on social media supported by ‘shares’ by people who like trees, but how many trees will be planted as part of this event?

While I love that a resident  planted this space, someone vandalised the tree.  This is not uncommon to see around Marrickville municipality.

While I love that a resident planted this space, someone vandalised the tree. This is not uncommon to see around Marrickville municipality.

You can tell by the aged stakes & canvas ties that this tree is at least a year old.  It takes years for a tree to reach a decent size & start providing real benefits to the environment.

You can tell by the aged stakes & canvas ties that this tree is at least a year old. It takes years for a tree to reach a decent size & start providing real benefits to the environment.

This is a very common sight across Marrickville LGA.  I think trees are amazing to survive these conditions.

This is a very common sight across Marrickville LGA. I think trees are amazing to survive these conditions.

 

 

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