Dossier: Paisatges sonors - Observatori del Paisatge

sur la presse

17 Novembre 2006

Planting a Better World

CHARLES MKOKA (Maroc) [Chronique]


Trees are the lungs of the earth. That statement has never been truer than now. The destruction of trees has been a fortifying factor in climate change. With millions of miles of forests cleared every year, the earth is slowly suffocating under the increase of greenhouse gases. Is it too late to reverse this effect? Who does it fall upon to save the earth now?


The United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been in conference in Kenya since November 6, 2006. At the conference, Professor Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Green Belt Movement activist, unveiled a surprise. She presented the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign at the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) head office in Nairobi. The program aims to highlight the vital importance of voluntary collective action. It seeks to encourage all citizens of the world to plant a tree in order to foster a global unity to restore the earth's declining biodiversity.

"I want to make this appeal to demonstrate our commitment by planting a tree in our respective countries. By 2007, we will reach a billion," Maathai said,accompanied by UNEP executive director Achim Steiner. Local and international journalists covering the UN Climate Change Conference gathered for the announcement. Maathai was flanked by Dennis Garrity, director general of the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF), and Tony Simmons of the Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi.

"I want you to join us in launching this campaign," the Kenyan Nobel Laureate said amid applause from journalists.


Steiner pledged the commitment of the global UN Environment Programme to the campaign. The UNEP is working to provide a platform for people around the world to get themselves involved in the campaign. Steiner stressed the fact that there is need for concerted efforts from all people around the world to undertake initiatives aimed at maintaining the earth's biodiversity.

He stressed that climate change is a global challenge and harnessed efforts are needed to combat it. People need to be positive and action-oriented to face the twenty-first century environmental challenges. They should not be discouraged by sectors of the society pumping out statistics of global temperature rise without offering solutions.

During the launch, ICRAF disclosed that it is committed to support the initiative. They will be providing scientific support. This will guide people as to which areas are best-suited to plant specific trees. The data is based on scientific research conducted and stored in ICRAF's extensive database.

The campaign being coordinated by UNEP is directed at all sectors of society. It aims to encourage everyone — ranging from the concerned citizen to the philanthropic corporation — to take small, but practical, steps to combat climate change.

"Intergovernmental talks on addressing climate change can often be difficult, protracted, and sometimes frustrating — especially for those looking on — but we cannot, and must not, lose heart. Meanwhile, action does not need to be confined to the corridors of the negotiations hall. The campaign, which aims to plant a minimum of one billion trees in 2007, offers a direct and straightforward path, down which all sectors of the society can step to contribute to meeting climate change challenge," Steiner said.


Steiner said the billion tree campaign is but an acorn. However, it can also be a practical and symbolical expression. It can send out a significant message of common determination to make a difference in developing and developed countries.

"In re-creating lost forests and developing new ones, we can also address other concerns including loss of biodiversity, improving water availability, stemming deforestation and reducing erosion," Steiner added.

"We have but a short time to avert serious climate change. We need action. We need to plant trees alongside the other concrete community-minded actions and in doing so, send a signal to the corridors of political power across the globe, that the watching and waiting is over — that countering climate change can take root via one billion small but significant acts in our gardens, parks, countryside, and rural areas," the UNEP Executive Director stressed.

The Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign is the brainchild of Professor Maathai and His Serene Highness Albert II, Sovereign Prince of Monaco. The Prince is Maathai's co-patron in the new initiative.

"I am particularly honored to be associated with the founder, Professor Wangari Maathai, whose involvement in the process of reforestation has been, and continues to be, inspirational. To plant a tree for future generations is a simple gesture, yet a strong symbol of sustainable development," Prince Albert II said during a telecasted speech in the press conference room at the Nairobi 2006 event.


Dennis Garrity, director general of ICRAF said, "The Billion Tree Campaign is a superb initiative by UNEP to link people, trees, and environment. Planting trees is great, although using appropriate scientific knowledge to plant the right tree in the right place is even greater."

He disclosed that the 500 million smallholder farmers in the tropical areas stand to benefit tremendously from the campaign. The greater recognition, appreciation, and promotion of the right trees in the right places may transform both lives and landscape.

Everhart Nangoma, who works for the Coordination Unit for the Rehabilitation of the Environment (CURE) in Malawi, was asked to comment on the development. "Though I came late, I felt the geographical scope of the one billion trees should have been spelt — is it global?" He asked in an interview, "If it is global, then one billion is a good start. Deforestation in Malawi alone is 160 million trees per year. Globally one billion is not ample, but I can commend the initiative."

Experts warned, during the opening of the meeting on Monday, that climate change is fast proving to be one of the greatest challenges in the history of humankind. They called for action to mitigate the negative effects, and save the planet before it is too late.


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