Swamp In Amazon Rainforest:Image Credit: Ivan Mlinaric

As The Amazon Burns: Can Planting Trees Help? 10 Ways To Aid Our Ailing Earth

The Amazon Rainforest serves as the lungs of the Earth. Recently, with all the infernos raging across these South American woodlands, our attention has again turned to saving our planet’s natural areas. A long time ago (well, actually not so long), there were forest in North America, Europe, Asia, and even Africa. Gradual climate change, as well as rampant deforestation in the name of progress, has left us with fewer and fewer forested areas on our planet. Why is this significant? Without the woodlands, levels of CO2 can rise, leading to catastrophic results.

Now, many do not “believe” in climate change, but it’s simple science. CO2 is a “greenhouse gas”, and more of it makes temperatures rise, trapping heat in our atmosphere. And without trees and areas of lush greenery, there will be less oxygen in the air. In fact, this is how NASA plans to terraform Mars, by using living trees and plants to slowly add vital oxygen to the air on the red planet.

So why should we even care? The Amazon is so far away, it seems like it wouldn’t matter. But it does. According to Greenpeace, in the last forty years, nearly one fifth of the Amazon rainforest has been decimated. Why? Primarily to serve us! Cattle ranchers, greedy loggers, and soy plantations are all to blame. Of course, the Amazon is home to indigenous peoples who rely on the forests to stay alive and maintain their way of life. Not to mention birds, insects, fish, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. Pretty much every form of life depends on the forests and the ecosystems trees foster and feed.

Swamp In Amazon Rainforest:Image Credit: Ivan Mlinaric

Swamp In Amazon Rainforest. Image Credit: Ivan Mlinaric

Already, insect populations have dropped substantially, including bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, dragonflies, and damselflies. “Who cares?” you might be muttering under your breathe. Birds and other animals feed on insects; there is a food chain and insects are at the base. And, some insects pollinate our food and other crops. Habitat destruction, part and parcel of “progress” and industrialized urbanization, as well as climate change, no doubt exacerbated by human activity, all seem to contribute to this loss. In 2018, the German government instituted an “Action Programme for Insect Protection,” after finding a staggering 75% decline in insect population in only 25 years.

If the situation is so dire, is there anything we can even do, as Americans and people of the world? The answer is, without a doubt, yes. While most of us aren’t going to join Greenpeace, there are steps we can all take to help ease the burden on the planet’s fragile ecosystem. Here are some effective plans you can enact now:

1. Plant trees.

Trees are a carbon sink, helping to replenish the soil with carbon, and releasing oxygen as they breathe. The United Nations’ Global Forest Resources Assessment demonstrated that we lose roughly 20 million acres of forested land every five or six years. Over time, that really adds up. Shade trees are best to plant, and it really will make a difference if everyone begins planting now.

Carbon sequestering is best accomplished by fast-growing hardwood trees. If you don’t own a home or have space for trees, you could always opt to donate to a nonprofit that plants trees. There’s “One Tree Planted”, the Nature Conservatory’s “Plant a Billion Trees” campaign, as well as “Trees for the Future.”  The National Forest Foundation also plants trees in American National Forests.

2. Buy Locally-Grown and Locally-Manufactured Products.

Of course, there’s nothing like genuine Traditional Specialties Guaranteed (TSG), European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) products like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Italy, Thuringer Leberwurst from Germany, U.K.’s Iveagh Rapeseed oil, and other rare food products. Then there’s Italian sports cars, which are second to none in the world, as well as genuine Murano Venetian glass, both items only produced in lands far from the US.

However, for many other items, if you’re not buying local, you’re paying to have the item shipped, sometimes across oceans on a container ship, other times airmailed over on a plane. If the same item can be found produced in your own area, it will save on the fossil fuel, CO2, and other wastes associated with shipment. Not to mention packaging, which itself is a significant pollutant of waterways and landfills. This goes for produce, a well as any other kind of items. If they’re from a place near you, the damage to the environment from shipping is decreased.

Why do you need peppers or onions that are shipped in from thousands of miles away? Get acquainted with local farmers, and buy direct. Local farmers markets may not actually sell local produce, and other food items. Always inquire, and check labels for verification. And, large ships are terrible polluters. It’s a fact. These ships bellow out black clouds of soot and have few regulations.

Venetian Glass Image Credit: Mark Hintsa

Venetian Glass Image Credit: Mark Hintsa CC

3. Go Vegan.

Although South American soy farmers are partly responsible for deforestation, going vegan does reduce your carbon footprint and impact on the environment. Recently, many have contested this, however, in order to eat beef or other meats, a significant amount of grain must be diverted to raising these food animals. And again, you can choose to buy soy that is not sourced from South America. While there are new, more environmentally friendly ways to farm meat, on a large scale, these boutique methods cannot sustain an entire population of meat eaters. Factory farming pollutes, no two ways about it.

4. Plant an Organic Garden.

Grow your own, without pesticides or herbicides! In a year, if you grow high-yielding fruits, berries, and vegetables, you will save not only a lot of cash, but also help decrease demand for produce that’s shipped from elsewhere. And, you help to restore your local ecosystem, providing habitat for other living creatures without the hazards created by pesticide and herbicide use. Learn sustainable gardening methods like composting and vermiculture and you’ll save even more by needing less fertilizer and creating a self-feeding loop. Worms really are our friends! And the composted material can feed the worms, our garden, and in the end, us. All those yard clippings would only end up in a local landfill, anyway.

Worms. Image Credit: Dan Brekke

Worms. Image Credit: Dan Brekke CC

5. Re-Use and Recycle.

We have been living in a throwaway culture for over sixty years. Landfill space is scarce, and landfills give off methane that helps accelerate global warming,as well as leachate, which can destroy local water tables. Marshall McLuhan noted this in the 1950s with his seminal work, The Waste Makers, concentrating on planned obsolescence and our need to always buy new things to feel good.

In the 1960s, McLuhan wrote, The Global Village, a text dealing with “electronic interdependence” of the world’s people, quite a visionary work considering how the Internet has shaped our lives in the last twenty years. In fact, we’re also interdependent ecologically, as the world ecosystems are all connected, a literal web of life.

There are websites and user groups dedicated tot his end, making sure clothing, electronics, and other items stay out of landfills for as long as is possible. Even after an item has exceeded its predicted lifespan, it may yet have use to others. Yard sales and free local classified ads are another way to advertise and showcase items you’re willing to part with, nut not throw away.

6. Barter with Other.

Trading is a great way of keeping all sorts of things out of landfills. The old adage, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” will always be apt. Bartering is an interesting concept and predates the use of currency. Of course,there are online options that can help you find partners to barter with

7. Organize a Fix-It Group.

In Germany, people meet and hang out over coffee or tea and help one another repair broken items. This novel idea was totally unknown to me until a good friend of mine, from Germany, explained the concept. I thought it was an incredible idea! Helping one another fix damaged items is a great concept; not only do we meet new people and make friends, but help the environment and extend the useful lifetime of items we purchased, increasing the value of every dollar initially spent on the item. Win. Win.

8. Carpool, Take the Train, Walk, or Bike.

We can’t always carpool. And, trains and buses aren’t always an option because of time constraints, as well as the limitation of areas served by public transportation. Obviously, though, both will help cut down your consumption of energy. And, walking is always fun and as long as your destination is local, your own legs can get you pretty far. A bike can get you there faster, so think about your options next time you need to go someplace local. And, you get exercise in the process of getting from point A to point B when you walk, jog, or bike.

9. Go Solar.

Solar Panels are becoming more efficient, and less costly to manufacture, with each passing year. New technologies help solar panels to get the most bang for the buck. Right now, if you depend on electricity , it’s coming from a power plant. Power plants mostly burn oil, though some continue to burn coal. Both have environmental costs associated with energy produced from such fuels. If you’ve waited to go solar, that isn’t so bad. You’ll be able to get a better product at a better price because you waited. Not bad at all.

Businesses and schools all over are covering their parking lots and rooftops with solar panels, using every square foot to help generate electricity from sunlight,offsetting both energy bill costs and helping to save the planet’s ecosystems at the same time.

10. Construct a Ground-Source Home Temperature Control System.

This is far less common than solar panels, but works equally w to save energy. A ground heat exchange system is relatively simple, in principle. Coils are buried in the ground, and antifreeze is pumped through. In the winter, this beings warmth, in summertime, cooling. There are also Solar Home heating Systems that can help heat a building in winter by heating fluid in coils exposed to sunlight, which brings solar radiation into the home using a heat exchange medium, much like in a ground-source system.

Can you think of any other ways we can help save our environment and offset the destruction of the rainforests? Remember, Staten Island was once a lush woodlands, as was most areas that are not deserts or plains. In time, human progress has destroyed Earth’s lungs, which will affect every life-form that depends on oxygen. If you are aware of other methods of helping to do your part for the environment, please contribute in the comments below.

13 Comments

  • Avatar Ron says:

    What would happen if every homeowner in the US planted shrubs instead of trees? Are shrubs as effective at sequestering carbon as trees?

    Trees do not work in every situation, but along the perimeter of the house, as well as the property line, shrubs can reach very tall heights, and create limited shade.

    I did landscaping for a few years and there’s a shrub called Thuja Green Giant. It’s the fastest growing shrub in existence.

    “The cultivar ‘Green Giant’ is popular as a very vigorous hedging plant, growing up to 80 cm/year when young.[15]”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thuja#Uses

    • Avatar RAD ICAL says:

      This will solve very little. What’s needed:
      1) Give up your gas stove
      2) give up your combustion motorized car from 1920
      3) solar, wind, ocean, geothermal electricity ONLY
      4) ground heating
      5) tax water usage
      6) charge garbage pickup by the pound
      7) eliminate packaging on products
      8) only sell dry goods (add water–for milk detergent shampoo etc.)
      9. Square containers NOT round
      10. Sail Don’t Fly!
      Yes I’m a radical.

      I’d like to be able to write this up as a full article for your publication.

  • Avatar Green--Gary says:

    Just for your information:

    Green building (also known as green construction or sustainable building) refers to both a structure and the application of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition.[1] This requires close cooperation of the contractor, the architects, the engineers, and the client at all project stages.[2] The Green Building practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort.[3]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_building

  • Avatar NOT GOING VEGAN NOW OR EVER says:

    Go vegan? Umm…no. I find it funny how lefties try to tell you what to do. The author probably does zero out of the ten suggestions. I’ll enjoy my steaks and help support the economy that way. Did you ever stop to think if we stop buying the economy would slow down? Okay give us all free money. Pay our medical debts. Pay our college debts. How about money to spend every month for just existing? The money has to come from somewhere and slowing down the economy isn’t how we get rich. Vegans are all sick and have no energy. They all come around eventually and return to a sensible diet in the end. Out of the entire list I can’t see one thing that makes any sense. Just a lot of wishful thinking. I don’t agree that we even have global warming. It feels a lot like global cooling. Science doesn’t agree with you. There is no real global warming. Vegan zombies are no threat. Just flick them and they fall over.

  • Avatar VeganStrong says:

    https://www.vegansouls.com/vegan-bodybuilders

    Not going to waste words with a reply.

  • Avatar vegan now since 1995 says:

    To “OT GOING VEGAN NOW OR EVER: “Vegans are all sick and have no energy.”

    LMFAO I’ve been vegan now since 1995. I could probably take you and your best friend at the same time, and then have the energy to do it again. And I’m not joking.

    What are you missing in your diet? I bet you don’t even know. What am *I* missing? It’s vitamin M- only found in meats. hahah just kidding, my blood panels show I’m healthy as an ox. Maybe three.

    Sorry so confrontational but your reply is just so lame. It’s just my way of defusing it. 🙂

    To StatenIslanders.Org:

    Great news portal. Never seen anything like this exactly. You guys are sure innovators. Can’t wait for your next articles. Your writers and guest authors are incredible. Keep this going. I actually heard about this from word of mouth. You guys are all the buzz right now. Not so much online? Ironic, since it is an online newspaper. ?

  • Avatar Myles T. says:

    Dear Blaine,

    Why don’t you address the inherent racism involved with environmental pollution? Communities of color, along with those on an unequal footing claiming membership of all races, suffer most. Their neighborhoods have the worst air pollution. Food deserts a serious issue. Community gardens could address this. Please focus on this in an article soon.

    Thank you,
    Myles Thomas

  • Avatar J S T E R says:

    OK. This has me thinking. Stop and look around u & c if anyone has solar panels. Check. Gardens? Check. What about buses & trains? Empty? Nope. Vegans? More every day. But what about buying local? How can u do that realistically? There’s just no way. Everyone I know has Amazon Prime. Locally there’s dollar stores & they sell u junk. I don’t think this is realistic. Maybe if every home on the block started looking like a botanic gardens we’d be ok but u have to admit its a free country & we can’t tell ppl to grow shrubs & trees. So what’s left? Trade with other ppl. Good idea. Donate & c how old junk has a purpose. Last thing. If u set up a place to fix ppl’s broken stuff that might work. But as long as ppl in SA keep killing trees it doesn’t help much. Now in the USA, lots more trees will be cut with the new laws.

  • Avatar Steaks! YUM! says:

    Another vegan zombie just turned to dust trying to walk down their steps, I’m told.

    For me? Sirloin. Flank steak. Meat.

    Keep your vegetables and gassy beans haha

    I eat my potatoes on the side.

    I love the NY Times article about how vegans turned to being butchers because they were tired of a diet that’s more suitable for a chipmunk? Not making this up. Click on Steaks! YUM! for the link.

    I quote, “Before she was a butcher, Ms. Kavanaugh was a strict vegetarian. She stopped eating meat for more than a decade, she said, out of a deep love for animal life and respect for the environment. She became a butcher for exactly the same reasons.”

    I hunt deer. So sue me. Vegans definitely not stopping me. Hunters love animals and help keep nature in balance. That’s a lot more than vegans do with their activism. Real activism ethical butchery and hunting. Not eating Impossible Burgers and bothering ME.

  • Avatar Steaks! YUM! says:

    Moderator, how do we make accounts on here? I’ve posted a few times now, and I would just like one account with my stats so other readers can see everything I’ve had to say. I’m not trying to hide. Thx

  • Avatar MetroGnome says:

    Face it. The Earth is Doomed. Pollution should have stopped by 1980. Too bad. This planet was kind of nice.

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