Thursday, November 29, 2007

If a press release about trees falls in the forest...

It's funny how you can tie a number to a news story and it sounds impressive. 1 billion trees planted in 2007? Hmmm...

Consider this: 1.6 billion trees are produced and shipped by forest tree nurseries annually. Forest product nurseries produce 852 million trees, private nurseries produce 366 million trees, state nurseries produce 348 million trees, and federal nurseries produce 38 million trees. Georgia's tree nurseries alone produce over 250 million trees each year and grow the most seedlings out of any other state. Nearly 79% of all tree production in the United States occurs in the South. Western nurseries produce 17% and Northern nurseries produce 4% of total U.S. tree production. [1]

1 billion trees planted in 2007? I don't think we should start the parade just yet.

It's also confusing when the UNEP website says that they're already up to 1.5 billion.

Is this supposed to be a lot? What's the plant-to-cut ratio? How long will these plantings take to mature? Will they be protected? Are they concentrated in areas that need them? Shouldn't this kind of thing be commonplace by now? Why are we celebrating something we should be doing anyway? Are 20 million trees in Myanmar celebratory in the face of massive Human Rights violations?

More than a billion trees planted in 2007: UN

Kenyan farmers tend to newly planted trees ©AFP/File - Tony Karumba

NAIROBI (AFP) - More than one billion trees have been planted around the world in 2007, with Ethiopia and Mexico leading in the drive to combat climate change, a UN report said Wednesday.

The Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said the mass tree planting, inspired by Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai, will help mitigate effects of pollution and environmental deterioration.

"An initiative to catalyze the pledging and the planting of one billion trees has achieved and indeed surpassed its mark. It is a further sign of the breathtaking momentum witnessed this year on the challenge for this generation -- climate change," UNEP chief Achim Steiner said in a statement.

"Millions if not billions of people around this world want an end to pollution and environmental deterioration and have rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty to prove the point," he added.

UNEP said the total number of trees planted is still being collated, but developing countries top the list with more than 700 million and 217 million trees planted in Ethiopia and Mexico respectively.

Others include: Turkey 150 million, Kenya 100 million, Cuba, 96.5 million, Rwanda 50 million, South Korea 43 million, Tunisia 21 million, Morocco 20 million, Myanmar 20 million and Brazil 16 million.

Maathai's Green Belt Movement planted 4.7 million trees, double the number of trees it had initially pledged, according to UNEP.

Experts says that trees help contain carbon that accumulates the heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change.

Although the figure could not be verified, it sends a powerful message ahead of the December 3-14 meeting in Bali of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a panel charting the path for negotiating pollution cuts to be implemented after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol pledges run out.

"We called you to action almost exactly a year ago and you responded beyond our dreams," said Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace prize for her campaign to plant tens of millions of trees to counter tree-loss and desertification in Africa.

"Now we must keep the pressure on and continue the good work for the planet," Naathai said in the statement.