National Tree Week
Each year, between the 26th of November and 4th of December, the UK celebrates the beginning of tree planting season by kicking off National Tree Week. Trees are the largest plants and longest living species on Earth and are essential for a healthy planet, which is why they are more than worthy of being honoured with this week of observance.
Why are trees so important?
Not only are trees beautiful to look at, especially during the autumn months in which their vivid colours are changing and leaves begin falling to the ground, but they are vital for our Earth’s and its inhabitants’ survival.
Trees and forests around the world are home to plenty of wildlife and biodiversity. In fact, over three-quarters of the world’s wildlife call forests their home. Animals use trees to find food, shelter, and are even where some species reproduce and raise their young. It is probably difficult for most of us to imagine animals such as sloths, koalas and orangutans without thinking of them hanging out (literally!) in a tree. In the UK alone, trees are home to an array of species, including the Goldcrest (the UK’s smallest bird), the Red Squirrel, the Tawny Owl, and the Stag Beetle (the UK’s largest beetle), to name but a few. Without trees and forests, these species would find it difficult to survive, with many of them already feeling the negative repercussions of deforestation.
While being home to millions of species, it was reported in 2021 by Reuters that “More than 10,000 species of plants and animals are at high risk of extinction due to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest – 35% of which has already been deforested or degraded.” It is critical that we prevent further human destruction of these unique habitats that wildlife rely on for their own existence.
You may be thinking “I don’t live in a tree! What’s in it for me?” Well, the presence of trees is extremely important for the purification of the air that we breathe. Not only are they natural oxygen emitters, but trees also act as carbon sinks, absorbing harmful carbon dioxide in the air that is precipitating climate change. Carbon is captured via trees’ leaves and is then transformed into biomass through the process of photosynthesis. Trees keep this carbon trapped inside their roots, trunks and branches and therefore out of the atmosphere.
Current approximations suggest that one mature tree can absorb over 48 pounds (or 22 kilograms) of carbon dioxide, releasing purified oxygen in exchange. This means that globally, forests are able to capture about 30 percent of current carbon emissions. Sadly, these statistics are ever changing as deforestation for the purpose of cattle production means that these natural carbon sinks are increasingly being destroyed by humans due to high demands for meat and dairy.
What can you do to help?
During the following week, tree-planting projects all over the UK will be taking place. If you’re not afraid to get messy, put on your boots and join one of the many groups that together are planting thousands of trees countrywide. Researcher Kári Helgason, from CarbFix2 project, notes, however, that “while planting trees is important, it must be done in conjunction with other solutions and mitigation efforts”.
IAPWA couldn’t agree more that planting trees cannot be the only solution. Rather than putting a bandage on the problem and being reactive, we seek to find ways to prevent the problem in the first place (being proactive). This is why we promote plant-based eating.
Meat production is the single greatest cause of deforestation in the world, with around half of the world’s habitable land being used for this purpose. The Amazon Rainforest is one alarming example: in the last fifty years, the largest rainforest in the world with the greatest greenhouse gas absorption potential has lost about one fifth of its forest–around 300,000 square miles. Cattle ranching is responsible for about 80 percent of that destruction. With projections for global meat consumption on the rise, these numbers will only become more devastating.
While it’s important to plant trees, it is also fundamental to not support businesses that are causing the destruction of those already planted. If you want to save the trees (and not have to get your shoes dirty – though we commend tree planting in addition to this!) why not try some delicious, healthy, plant-based and tree-friendly recipes that both you and the Earth will appreciate. Check out some celebrity favourites in IAPWA’s Free Vegan Recipe Booklet and find out how tasty environmentally-friendly meals can really be!