Forests are an important part of our lives. When we hear the word deforestation, the first vision that comes to our minds is the Brazilian Amazon, referred to as “the lungs of the world”. Recently, it has received much media scrutiny and attention. Because deforestation is a global environmental crisis, it has caused many public outcries, including the head of the Roman Catholic church in the Vatican in Rome. According to Eco Watch’s February 18, 2020 article, Pope Francis made a plea to save the Amazon. Known as a global environmental leader, Pope Francis released an impassioned document entitled Dear Amazon “Querida Amazonia” in the hopes of reigniting his influence to stress that the Indigenous people are best-suited protectors of the Amazon.
The Amazon is referred to as the “lungs of the planet” because it covers 2.1 million square miles and produces 20% of the world’s oxygen, through a process called photosynthesis. This process occurs when the plants and trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air.
We, the world must also direct our attention to the lungs of the northern hemisphere, as it also plays a significant role on our planet. I’m referring to the “Amazon of the North”, the Canadian boreal forest which is part of our country’s cultural identity. Like the Brazilian Amazon, the boreal forest helps to store carbon and regulate the effects of climate change. The threatened boreal woodland caribou is breeding ground for billions of North America’s songbirds and critical habitat. Much like the Brazilian Indigenous People in the Amazon, deforestations have a significant impact on the livelihood and freedom of the First Nations by placing their treaty rights to hunt and fish under threat. Both the Amazon and Boreal Forests are traditional territories that hold cultural significance for the Indigenous peoples of the land. The parallel between deforestation in major forests in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere is that it sacrifices long-term benefits for short-term gain.
A major cause of global warming is the release and storage of carbon dioxide from the Amazon forest. A New York Times quote on Forbes Magazine article of August 26, 2019 entitled, “Why Everything They Say About The Amazon, Including That It’s The ‘Lungs Of The World,’ Is Wrong” by Michael Shellenberger, debunks the Amazon as being the Lungs of the World, “The Amazon produces a lot of oxygen, but it uses the same amount of oxygen through respiration so it’s a wash.”
Despite numerous attempts made by media to contradict this environmental crisis, it is comforting to know that the Canadian government demonstrates its support on this important issue by carefully monitoring and regularly publishing reports on deforestation.
Not only does deforestation cause global warming, but it also shrinks forest cover which reduces biodiversity, affects soil, impacts wildlife habitat and affects water quality.
Despite the legislations in place by environmental activists and lobbyist groups, both the Brazilian and Canadian governments have failed for decades to protect their forests from destruction.
Canada accounts for half of the forest cover of North America and although 9 countries share the Amazon basin – 58.4% of the rainforest is contained within the borders of brazil.
Thirty percent of American toilet paper brands rely on fiber from trees native to the Canadian boreal’s clear cut forest. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) co-authored a report called “The Issue with Tissue” which reveals this as an issue.
In Brazil’s Amazon the indigenous people are expulsed from their land by fires started by Illegal loggers and miners. In Brazil, cattle ranching is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation, making the country’s largest beef exporter. In 2018, $6.7 billion of the country’s economy was generated from cattle ranching.
In terms of forest land ownership, most of Canada’s forest land, about 94%, is publicly owned and managed by provincial, territorial and federal governments. Only 6% of Canada’s forest lands is privately owned.
The Brazilian Amazon has lost more than 18 percent of its rainforest to illegal logging, soy plantations, and cattle ranching.
Can the Amazon rainforest grow back? Researchers have found in recent decades, that tropical forests are remarkably resilient. Tropical forests can grow back with astonishing speed if some remnants are left when the forest is cleared to provide seeds and refuges for seed dispersers. There are several global projects focused on regenerating areas of rainforest. However, replanted ‘secondary’ forest tends to have lower rates of biodiversity (particularly fewer large animals) than virgin rainforest, after several decades.
There are many reforestation projects in place. The cost per tree varies widely between different reforestation projects. It can go from as little as 10 cents per tree to over $20 per tree. In other words, with $20, you could plant 200 trees, or you could plant 1 tree, depending on the project.
A reforestation project that has gained media attention through many decades is one created by the Canadian climate content expert, and Green Party candidate, Peter Ormond. Peter is an Environmental Engineer, registered media reporter, and videographer with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who attended COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. He is also a writer, playwright, and film producer. He has attended previous COP events as a speaker in Montreal (COP11) to present his “Green Cottage”, and in Poznan (COP14) to present his short film “The Natural Wisdom” in the international film festival.
His reforestation project is unique from others, because of the generous aspect associated with it. Whilst other projects may depend on donations, Peter has invested his own personal money and forfeited taking vacations to support this cause. He has donated his personal money to purchase white spruce, strawberry plants, pear trees, and distributed a variety of kits to schools for teachers to teach children. As a teacher and professor, Peter felt it would be beneficial for our school system to implement this form of education at these early stages for the movement to be effective globally. As a result of this generous contribution, thousands of trees have been planted. Hundreds of pear and fruit trees built the urban canopy. Pope Francis would be happy to know that St. Francis of Xavier Church in Stoney Creek will be planting the sunflower seed packs which Peter donated to the St. Michael Feast dinner/dance last year to beautify the church’s garden.
Martin Luther King’s famous speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.” was delivered on August 28, 1963. On October 26 October 2019, Pope Francis said he dreams of an Amazon region where the rights of the poor and Indigenous are respected, local cultures are preserved, nature is protected, and the Catholic Church is present and with “Amazonian features”. I also share in their dreams, along with the Indigenous Prophecy of the Eagle of the North and Condor of the South, ”When the eagle of the north meets the condor of the south, there will be peace among the tribes of the earth…” Ancient proverb.
There are no reasons why two powerful countries like Brazil and Canada, which are rich in natural resources cannot fulfill this prophecy, which calls for the establishment of a new society to join forces through, education, responsibility, accountability, respect, stewardship, integrative social projects, and healthy partnerships that will benefit planet earth, humanity and the Indigenous people. More education is required at all levels to achieve sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation. We must stand in solidarity to stop the mass destruction of trees and deforestation to slow the pace of climate change and preserve our wildlife.