Trees and the Environment
Most bonsai enthusiasts are interested in trees in all forms, from bonsai to statuesque trees in the landscape. Each lovely old tree supports life in many forms within its branches and roots, from lichens to invertebrates, insects, birds and mammals.
Using sunshine and water, the chlorophyll in its leaves produces sugars for the tree's growth, taking in carbon dioxide and giving off oxygen, which is vital for life.
Many people living within the rainforest are poor and are powerless to stop rich companies cutting down trees and using the land for development and agriculture, but logging on a large scale can cause climate change and environmental disasters such as drought, flooding and extinction of the plants and animal species found there. The rain forest worldwide is being felled at an alarming rate - one and a half acres per second! Carbon is held within living trees, but this is dispersed when the tree is felled, releasing carbon dioxide.
The BBC documentary 'Dying for a biscuit' highlighted the plight of orangutans, which were being killed, and their
young left to die, while the tropical rain forest was illegally felled to grow palm oil crops in Indonesia. This is still true.
Vast areas are being devastated and many illegal palm oil crops are being grown on deep layers of peat, which cause
the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Orangutans, rhinos, tigers and elephants are at critical risk of extinction in the wild due to loss of habitat in the Far East.
Food manufacturers in many countries are replacing hydrogenated fats (trans fats) with palm oil because it is solid at room temperature and because it is cheap, but it contains as much saturated fat as butter. The ingredients are often listed as 'vegetable oil' rather than palm oil in an attempt to hide the truth.
Orangutans are intelligent, sensitive animals that share over 90% of their genes with humans. Mothers only have one
baby every seven years as they have to be taught how to find food, make a bed in the tree tops every night, know
where fruit is ripe at every season, etc.,
Palm oil is a red goo squeezed from the fruit of the palm oil tree. It is used in thousands of foods: biscuits, crisps, bread, cake, chocolate, ice cream and animal food. It is also found in soap and other cleaning products, for which it
was originally grown. Palm oil raises cholesterol and is bad for the heart. It can also cause allergies.
Shipping palm oil around the world raises our carbon footprint. Local people are often used as slave labour.
Burning scrub to grow palm oil regularly causes choking smog in Singapore!
In South America, the Amazonian rain forest, which covers over a billion acres, is being felled to grow crops and produce beef. 80% of the soya grown is exported for animal feed. Be aware that animals reared locally may have been fed on soya grown in the Amazonian rain forest.
Animals such as tamarins are threatened with extinction in the wild because they travel through the upper canopy of trees to reach other groups to breed. If these little monkeys are isolated by areas of open ground, which they cannot cross, they will not survive. Efforts are being made by organisations such as Durrell Conservation Trust to provide 'corridors' of trees so they can meet other groups to breed.
Other endangered species, such as jaguars, cougars, tree frogs and macaws, are also suffering the damaging effects of deforestation and loss of habitat.
Some trees and plants, which could be used to fight disease, are disappearing before research is done.
An area the size of three football pitches is being felled EVERY MINUTE.
20% of the earth's oxygen is produced by trees in the Amazonian rain forest.
Madagascar is home to many unique species of animals, including all the earth's lemurs: most species, such as ring-tailed lemurs, live in trees and are endangered by deforestation and loss of habitat.
The Alaotran gentle lemur lives around Lake Alaotra and is critically endangered in the wild due to loss of habitat and hunting.
The ploughshare tortoise is critically endangered due to poaching and being hunted for export to the Far East for the rare wildlife trade.
Organisations such as WWF, Durrell Conservation Trust, Woodland Trust and RSPB are working hard to highlight the problems and change attitudes before it is too late. Local people are employed as rangers to protect the trees and animals and to educate their neighbours, providing work and improving the environment.
Things you can do to help:
Look at the links on the left and find out more about the rain forest and the management of woods and forests in your region.
Support organisations trying to improve the environment, both in the UK and throughout the world.
Before buying, make sure that wooden furniture and other wooden products have been responsibly sourced (FSC mark), particularly if they are made from tropical wood.
Make sure paper products, such as greetings cards, also carry the FSC logo.
Look out for the Rainforest Alliance Certified 'Little green frog' logo on toiletries and fruit to show the products have been produced sustainably.
Petition for food manufacturers to label their products correctly and reduce their use of palm oil.
Try to avoid palm oil where possible, or insist on sustainably produced palm oil.
Check out your local supermarket on the WWF palm oil scorecard link.