March 28, 2012

POLICY: If a Tree Falls … Does Anybody Care?

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There is currently a worldwide movement going on around us, but few Americans are aware of it.There is currently a worldwide movement going on around us, but few Americans are aware of it: The United Nations has retroactively proclaimed 2011 as “The International Year of Forests,” and wants to continue tree enthusiasm into 2012.

In doing so, the UN is finally bringing notoriety to an issue which has too long fallen to the periphery of policy.

To the conservatives out there, I know the resolution may at first come across as a piece of liberal, modern-day hippie legislation. But after doing my homework, I can safely say that it’s not just the tree huggers of the world who should be supporting the movement.

The scientific community continues to stress that greenhouse gas, produced from human activities, is the leading cause of global warming. And what is the Earth’s first natural line of defense against these rising CO2 emissions you may ask? Your answer: Trees.

David Nowak, of the USDA Forest Service, elaborated on the actual process in his dissertation, explaining that trees remove gaseous pollution by an advance in the leaf stomata, eventually diffusing the particles after they enter the interior of the leaf.  It is estimated that a single mature tree can absorb upwards of 48 pounds of CO2 per year, and release 260 pounds of oxygen at the same annual rate.

The world as a whole is currently emitting an average of 4.49 tons of CO2 per person. With such a staggering statistic it’s obvious that the world will not be able to continue production at the rate it’s going without exhausting resources and itself in the process.

Even though the importance of forests has never seemed more evident, it appears that man and Mother Nature alike are making preservation all the more difficult. This summer, fires decimated a multitude of forests along the Rockies, the Amazon recently experienced two large-scale droughts and Australia’s own eucalyptus trees are falling victim to rising temperatures. And while the forests burn around us, men still continue to exploit them through logging — a practice which experts say is done to an unnecessary extent.

So what is the world to do? It seems the Obama Administration has taken the first steps towards making America a leader in forest fire mitigation and general forest support costs through allocations in the stimulus plan. At the end of the day however, you cannot just throw money at a problem like this but instead must cultivate a genuine concern amongst people. We should not gaze at the problem of deforestation through the lens of an American citizen, but instead look upon it as a citizen of the world.

If you’re interested in checking out the actual United Nations Resolution:

http://www.un.org/en/events/iyof2011/resolution.shtml

And hard numbers of the Stimulus Package can be found here:

http://www.propublica.org/special/the-stimulus-plan-a-detailed-list-of-spending

Mark Ezzo is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at mge23@cornell.edu. The Missing Link: Policy appears on appears on Thursdays.

Original Author: Mark Ezzo