Reforestation Heroes
By : Kim Phy
Trees are an important part of our world, but are often overlooked or ignored when it comes to deforestation. Our trees and forests provide renewable raw materials and energy, maintain biodiversity, and protect land and water resources, but they are disappearing at an alarming rate. Therefore, deforestation has huge consequences and dramatic impacts on the health and productivity of the land.

When one thinks of subsistence farmers growing produce for the market, they're completely dependent on the health of their soil and their water resources. Deforestation robs farmers of both of those two aspects. Forests also play tremendous roles in the health of watershed, water infiltrating the soil, replenishing the water table, aquifers and so forth. When trees are cut down, water runs off the ground more than infiltrating the soil. Instead of having rivers, streams and water resources to support farming, you end up with extreme flooding for a short time period of the year. For the rest of the year, you have to farm on the then dried up soil.

For example, Haiti is known for desertification caused by deforestation which thus has further increased their poverty. This type of desertification impacts farmers in South Africa, South East Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and in many other areas around the world. Deserts are also forming in the United States, such as Utah and Colorado because trees are falling by hundreds of thousands a month.

The consequences of cutting down trees seem so distant, but they are actually happening! Not only humans are affected by the growing amount of deserts, but many natural habitats are also destroyed. And, many of those habitats have medicinal properties, which are still being researched to provide new cures for diseases. Some natural habitats have been destroyed even before they are discovered or fully documented.

Therefore, reforestation is crucial in rejuvenating the land because our planet needs forests to regulate climate, rain, and snow. One does not have to believe in global warming to support reforestation - trees are still beneficial in numerous ways. Trees provide produce for world market, namely medicines, timbers for houses, paper, glues, perfumes, furniture's, fruits, and many others. People often think that they have recognized the problems of cutting trees, and that they are being protected, and thus everything is fine, but unfortunately it's not. The best way to protect what's left is to keep planting. Reforestation is the best action one can take right now for the sake of the environment's future.

I met with representatives of different organizations who are making a difference for the trees in the world: Jennifer Smith from Community Carbon Trees Costa Rica (CCT) and Scott Sabin from Plant With Purpose to discuss their mission. CCT' mission is to plant and maintain as many trees as possible. They plant different species and create biological corridors or habitats for plants and animals that are facing extinction. On top of protecting watersheds, they work close with the Pacific coast to help preserve whales. Poor condition of the area's soil results in landslide and sedimentation of rivers when it rains. The soil then drains into the ocean and negatively affects the ocean environment.

One of CCT' goals is to raise consciousness about connection between trees, plants, animals, water, ocean, and people. Smith was inspired to learn about environmental biology by her grandfather who was an environmental lawyer, and her uncle who worked on fishes' issues in Alabama. Jennifer grew up in the country of Louisiana, which she says was, "raped environmentally." She grew up in nature and loves it so much that she had to fight for it, so she wanted to become an environmental lawyer. When she turned 16, she learned how to manage the forest from her father. Together they started a reforestation company for private individuals and conducted private work with conservation groups for 13 years -all of which set the stage for CCT-Costa Rica.

As for the leaders of Plant With Purpose, they were involved in relief efforts in the Dominican Republic when Hurricane David hit in the 80's. They began to see that relief doesn't change anybody's basic situation-It's more like life support. They looked at some of the root causes of poverty and came to the realization that a lot of the people living in urban towns were recent migrants in the countryside. Because their farms were so marginalized, many of the people left since they can no longer make a living there. In 1985, the leaders of Plant With Purpose made it their mission to reverse deforestation and poverty by transforming the lives of the rural poor.
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