Doing well not to be overshadowed today by the news that the ultimate King (or should that be Prince?) of Pop and his reign of purple rain has ended, Earth Day 2016 has been trending throughout social media and online. Earth day is a day that was set up in the 1970s to raise awareness of environmental issues around the world, with the word ‘environmental’ covering a whole host of topics, including issues that affect our health and our communities, air quality, water pollution, biodiversity and protected species. The theme this year is quite simple – trees. From today onwards, Earth Day have set a goal to plant 7.8 billion trees by Earth Day 2020 -that’s one for every person on the planet. So why is this so important?
- Trees filter our air and keep air pollution limits down. A single tree is estimated to produce around 260 pounds of oxygen per year and absorbs around a ton of Carbon Dioxide in its life time. As our population increases and we cut down more and more trees, in turn it means that trees are less able to regulate our climate. Planting more trees, therefore, means simply that we are in turn slowing down global warming. As Greenpeace say, ‘Trees are the lungs of our planet”.
- We don’t however, just need trees for oxygen and the improvement of our air quality. We also rely on trees for fruits, wood, water, medicines and soil nutrients.
- Planting more trees will reverse the impact of land degradation. Forests support the livelihoods of around 1 in 6 people on this planet – but with deforestation becoming more and more frequent, it leaves people with nutrient poor land and fewer utensils to farm.
- Trees are not only essential for us – they are just as vital for other species too. Whilst trees provide us with oxygen and food, trees are also the natural habitat and contribute towards natural habitats for many protected species, making them crucial for biodiversity for both animals and plants.
- In extreme weather conditions, the sturdiness and stability of trees act as safety buffers for hurricanes, blizzards and floods.
So yes, trees are pretty important – and this particular Earth Day is just as important, as well as historic. Today, 155 countries have agreed to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the UN headquarters in New York, pledging to work to limit global temperature rise to 2°C but aiming for a rise below 1.5°C. Congratulations to everyone who has participated in Earth Day and for the organisation Earth Day itself for doing such a good job of raising awareness.