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Better To Plant A Tree Than Curse The Desert.
Article by Cléo Fatoorehchi from the United Nations International Press Service (UN IPS) about CommunityCarbonTrees.
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 2, 2011 (IPS) - With deforestation claiming 5.2 million hectares annually and governments seemingly incapable of agreeing on a new pact to curb climate-altering carbon emissions, it would be easy to write off the situation as hopeless.
But one group, based in Costa Rica, decided that instead of waiting for industry or governments to "fix" the problem, they would offer a way for average people around the world to sponsor trees to be grown and replanted in socially responsible ways.
"Our model is based on seed-collecting networks in communities supported by people of all ages and nationalities, men and women," Jennifer Leigh Smith, the founder and director of Community Carbon Trees (CCT), told IPS. "Usually, work producing the trees is distributed among families in communities where we work."
Besides helping to sequester carbon dioxide, promote biodiversity and prevent soil erosion, Smith says these projects enhance local socioeconomic development. "CCT works within communities to spread consciousness about reforestation through hands on, well-paid, socially responsible labour," she said.
"Communities become excited about collecting seeds and understand in a renewed manner how important it is to preserve the remaining forest for future seeds," she said. "We see people learning first hand that is better to plant the tree and tend it rather than go into the forest and cut down old growth - which is a common problem in Costa Rica as poor people are burdened with holding forest reserves even when they cannot buy shoes for their children."
With 2011 designated the International Year of Forests, 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives, and this Jun. 5 World Environment Day, there is a nexus of renewed momentum behind local sustainable development initiatives, particularly as they relate to forests and woodlands.
"The CCT is using the initiative to spread the word out there and help us to get publicity," Smith said.
Founded in 2000, the CCT has already planted more than 385,000 trees in Costa Rica, mostly to reforest farmland. It participates in private, community-led or corporate projects. Sponsoring a tree costs 25 dollars, which covers planting as well as transportation.
CCT is also working in partnership with the International Year of Forests, in an initiative called "Pacto por la vida" (pact for life), which promotes its work among international sponsors and local communities.
Smith stressed that besides mitigating climate change, reforestation helps replenish underground aquifers and prevent landslides in torrential rains.
According to the U.N. Environment Programme, over 1.6 billion people around the world are dependent on forests for their livelihoods.
"Creating alternative income streams is vital to preserving what rainforest remains as well as planting new stands of mixed native species for the future," she noted.
Every year since 1972, thousands of people around the world have celebrated World Environment Day on Jun. 5, in an event created by UNEP to raise awareness about the numerous challenges humanity was and still is facing.
According to UNEP spokesperson Nick Nuttall, the challenges identified at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 – climate change, water and forests, among others – continue to be of major concern.
"Every year [World Environment Day] seems to grow bigger and bigger," he told IPS, conveying the urgency for governments and citizens to become more aware and act to protect their natural environment.
He said UNEP has also focused on greening international events, such as the World Football Cup in Germany in 2006 and the one last year in South Africa. Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive director, recently went to Brazil to discuss the conditions for the World Football Cup and the Olympics to be held respectively in 2014 and 2016.
UNEP's goal is for "not only a fantastic sporting event, but also an environmentally friendly event", Nuttall said. And while these kinds of one-off events – the World Cup, the Olympics, World Environment Day – "are not going to change the world overnight, they are part of a growing awareness among people and communities and business and governments," he concluded.
Meanwhile, an international coalition of academics and environmental activists has launched a global campaign at the United Nations for a "Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth".
Maude Barlow, a lead campaigner for the U.N. convention and chairperson of the Council of Canadians, a citizen's advocacy organisation, told IPS the rights of nature are based on the notion that the natural world is a fully operating system, a community, with its own laws. It is therefore necessary for humans to construct laws that are compatible with the laws of nature.
This means promoting human and community development in a way that protects nature and promotes sustainability, said Barlow, a former U.N. Adviser on Water.
"What might it look like if we created laws to give the earth and other species the right to exist?" she asked. "If we believe that rights are inherent, existing by virtue of our creation, then they belong to all nature, not just to humans."