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Blog moved to www.teratrees.com

 

 

Dear Treelovers,

Please note this blog has migrated to http://www.teratrees.com

See you over there!

Ryan

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The Launch of Teratrees!

I am happy to write here this morning that Teratrees is now live (www.teratrees.com)!

This has been a lot of work but we are confident it is a great idea – an idea that helps us and the planet. So what’s it all about?

Well if you plant a tree it can be ‘owned’ by somebody else or by a company or organisation. This is a virtual ownership, but with a real financial transaction. You can then grow a garden in cyberspace and connect to real people and real trees. There is thus the opportunity to earn money or even make a profit if you are trading or offering your trees on the website. There is also a ranking system where you can appear on the home page – especially good for companies who wish to advertise their green credentials! And if you don’t have a yard or garden at home, then you can have your own one on Teratrees.

In summary, it is a symbiotic system between nurseries, gardeners, individuals and organisations that is going to green the world! We are launching in London with some local nurseries and garden centres – to see more details and to start growing your garden visit Teratrees and register for free!

Trees

Tackling Large Problems

Large problems can be daunting, and even once they are fully comprehended, the scope of required action filtered through the imagination may sustain inaction. Sometimes there is a certain comfort in apathy; we do not desire to commit ourselves emotionally to an uncertain outcome. Nor does the ego enjoy feelings of helplessness where one’s activity appears to be ineffectual or inconsequential. There are often easier thoughts to attend and the mind has a fickle nature.Tidal Wave

The way we live on this planet and feed off its resources is unsustainable. This is a large problem. But let us not stand in a stupor, after all, to quote system’s theorist Ervin László, “Today’s economic, social and technological environment is our own creation, and only the creativity of our mind – our culture, spirit and consciousness – could enable us to cope with it. Genuine creativity does not remain paralyzed when faced with unusual and unexpected problems but confronts them openly, without prejudice. Cultivating it is a precondition of finding our way toward a globally interconnected society in which individuals, enterprises, states, and the whole family of peoples and nations could live together peacefully, cooperatively, and with mutual benefit.”

We are connected with the state of

We are connected to the state of the planet – let us not remain paralyzed

To put it simply, what we see about us we created, and we have it within us to create something different. This cognition will take some existential responsibility, but it is only in working together that significantly different creations can occur. This does not deny individual rebellious action against the status quo, but leadership is needed and especially leadership that can harness the imagination of many.ficus

To return to the root is often necessary in clarifying problems. This I see as our relationship with nature and our relationship with ourselves. This does not need to be in an exercise in navel-gazing; first can come action, and with action we can re-awaken our genetic imperative that can provide our species with its forgotten context.

With Teratrees, action will take the form of planting a tree and/or supporting those who do, and to try and influence these dynamics through economics.

Online and Connected?

As of 2010, more than half of the planet’s population lived in cities. This will continue to grow (although at a slowing rate) and is driven by rapid urbanization in large modernizing countries such as China – from 1950 to 2005 their urbanized population grew from 13 to 40 %. By 2030 it is estimated that 6 out of 10 of the world’s citizens will live in cities.

New York

New York

What does this mean for the natural environment? Well there is the positive result of a higher concentration of humans in cities meaning more ‘space’ for Nature, although this is not found to be consistently true around the planet as areas of natural environment get smaller due to resource pressure. But what it also means is that there are generations of humans growing up with less contact with Nature, and with a potential decrease in empathy and understanding of the other organisms that share this planet and how they interact in a marvellous ecosystem that has taken 3.8 billion years to evolve.

Green Forest

Social connection and education is higher in cities, which at least offers a potential offset to this disconnection from the wilderness, provided the education is of a holistic nature. The internet and spread of social media is also a positive for the survival of Earth’s organisms, with environmental campaigns and awareness being easier to promote and organize. The Teratrees project will be part of this direction, with goals to increase human-nature interaction and the creation of a nature-minded community not constrained by geography. Trees are a universally recognized feature of landscapes and a common symbol in human consciousness.Internet

However, there is still no substitute for being outside in green spaces. This does not solely mean in the wilderness; a local park or your own garden give benefits to the psyche and facilitate a connection which is natural and fundamental to our physical being. Teratrees hopes to increase this interaction and the sharing of this activity with others. Fundamentally, our relationship and understanding of Nature will determine our role on this planet, as partners or as parasites.

Beautiful Tree

Why plant a tree?

  1. Trees provide the oxygen that keeps us alive. One mature tree provides enough for 10 people to breathe per year.
  2. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, removing and storing the carbon as they grow. This should be reason enough as the global CO2 concentration surpasses 400 ppm.
  3. Strategically planted trees can reduce home energy use by as much as 30 % (Arbor Day Foundation). Planting deciduous trees on the east and west sides of the home provide shade in summer, while coniferous trees planted on the north and northwest sides can shield properties from cold winter winds.
  4. Trees raise property values for the entire neighbourhood: A 2010 US Forest Service study concluded that a tree planted “growing along the public right of way added an average of $12,828 (£8,500) to the combined value of all houses within 100 ft”.
  5. In 1985 the US Forest Service estimated the value of an individual tree at $273 annually (£180), well over $57,000 over its life time (£38,000). This value comes from its contribution to climate control, soil erosion, stormwater management, wildlife shelter and air pollution reduction.
  6. Trees improve biodiversity and improve habitat for local wildlife. Trees and large shrubs in your garden can make a real difference to butterflies, bees and birds.
  7. Trees cool the streets and the city, reducing the urban heat island and the evaporation of fuels within your car parked outside.
  8. They help the soil by reducing soil erosion by slowing run-off and holding soil in place with their roots, and also by remediating the soil and breaking down harmful chemicals.
  9. Trees help conserve water through reducing evaporation and run-off, allowing underground aquifers to recharge.
  10. Aesthetically, these organisms provide beauty to residential and urban areas and research has shown their presence decreases hospital stayover times of patients who had a view of them from their window.
  11. Socially and communally they provide a sense of identity and communities often band together to protect significant or historic trees.
  12. As playmates for children and places of rest and spiritual retreat for adults.
  13. Trees can form an effective sound barrier to noisy streets, providing more peace to one’s home.

    An oak tree in Wales (John Haynes)

    An oak tree in Wales (John Haynes)

The Psychological Motivation to Plant a Tree

If the above reasons are known and understood this should provide some rationale for planting a tree in your garden or local area. To summarise key motivations:

  1. Improving Your Living Space: The serenity of trees in one’s garden adds natural beauty
  2. Financial: A mature tree increases the value of your property
  3. Helping the Planet: Understanding the environmental condition of the Earth and why trees are needed
  4. The Feel Good Factor: The sense of satisfaction that comes from providing value or help

As seen, there are already powerful human drives present in these reasons. However, with the Teratrees project I hope to add to these motivations. This project shall be launched in the near future and updates shall follow!

Bohinj Lake, Slovenia (http://www.slovenijaturizem.com/)

Bohinj Lake, Slovenia (http://www.slovenijaturizem.com/)

A multi-faceted approach is needed in tackling the effect of human activity on the climate and natural world. A reduction in industrial emissions through better practice, technology and efficiency is key, coupled with protection of carbon sinks, namely the forests and the oceans.

Seagrass meadows play a critical role in the carbon cycle (photo: M. Sanfélix)

Seagrass meadows play a critical role in the carbon cycle (photo: M. Sanfélix)

The oceans are the largest carbon sinks in the world storing 93 % of carbon in the form of algae, vegetation and coral, and sequestering 20 to 35 % of anthropogenic emissions. However, there is evidence to suggest that the oceans are becoming less efficient since around the year 2000 in absorbing these emissions1. Further, since the 1940’s, marine carbon sinks have been suffering with a loss of 30 % of mangroves, 25 % of salt marshes and over 30 % of seagrass meadows2. These are being lost at a faster rate than the rain forests.

Coastal development, aquaculture operations and timber removal are destroying these marine ecosystems, and thus there is a connection between the destruction of forests on land and under water. Deforestation through clearing and burning also generates 17 % of global carbon emissions, more than from all the world’s air, road, rail and shipping traffic combined. The highest rates of deforestation are taking place in the regions where illegal logging is at its worst – the Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia3. These are areas where there is a lack of forest governance and where accountability and transparency are often in short supply.

Mangrove forests are threatened by coastal development (Source: www.sundarban.org)

Mangrove forests are threatened by coastal development (Source: http://www.sundarban.org)

Illegal logging actually floods the market with cheaper wood, which suppresses global timber prices between 7 and 16 per cent3. It is estimated that legal timber companies are being denied US$30 billion per year from these activities.

It looks good, but do you know where it was sourced?

It looks good, but do you know where it was sourced?

As can be imagined, protecting forests and marine ecosystems require political and economic solutions, as well as enforcement of law. And as an end user of timber products we have a deep responsibility to ensure that our furniture, floors and wooden features in our homes and businesses are from sustainable and legal timber. We are all part of the solution.

References

  1. Khatiwala et al. (2009). Reconstruction of the history of anthropogenic CO2 concentrations in the ocean. Nature 462, 346-349
  2. Blue Carbon – The Role of Healthy Oceans in Binding Carbon. Rapid Response Assessment by GRID-Arendal and UNEP. 14 October 2009
  3. Davyth Stewart. Combating illegal logging key to saving our forests and preventing climate change. Project LEAF (Interpol), 21 March 2013

A Solution in our Midst

The atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, as reported by the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, was recorded at 395.5 ppm1 (parts per million) as of January 2013. This value is consistent with the upward trend as measured since 1959 from this observatory. The maximum value Earth’s atmosphere should have, if we wish to sustain life on this planet in its current form, is 350 ppm2. Not only do we have much work to get there, but we first have to stop the rising trend which is moving in the opposite direction.

Latest CO2 Trends (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - US Dept. of Commerce)

Latest CO2 Trends (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – US Dept. of Commerce)

Copenhagen climate negotiators in 2009 argued to keep the increase in average global temperature below 3.6 °F or 2 °C. This target of low ambition would lead to a different planet, one with an ice-free Arctic and sea level rises of many metres3,4, affecting hundreds of millions of people and the planet’s fauna and flora. Currently, The Marshalls, Kiribati, and Tuvalu islands are already feeling the effects of rising sea levels. If we continue business as usual we are looking at an increase of 5.4 °F or 3 °C, which would result in a collapse of the Amazon ecosystem, sea levels 25 metres higher and huge terrestrial areas exposed to permanent drought. The Earth will be vastly different.

Already Kiribati is suffering from sea level rise. They are currently negotiating with Fiji to by land for relocation. (Ciril Jazbec)

Already Kiribati is suffering from sea level rise. They are currently negotiating with Fiji to buy land for relocation. (Ciril Jazbec)

As is often the case, governments are slow to act, and even when the facts are simple and the case is clear, presidents and prime ministers have been fearful about affecting their re-election.  A broader and more honest response is required. Such a response requires first understanding the gravity of the situation and then acting, or creating incentives for solutions. Richard Branson has done exactly that with the setting up of the Carbon War Room as well as creating the Virgin Earth Challenge where a $25 million prize will be awarded for an economically viable and environmentally sustainable way to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Current finalists have been announced.

A $25 million prize

A $25 million prize

Such a contest is to be welcomed and the technologies celebrated, but perhaps there is a simpler technology in our midst. One that is so familiar that we take it for granted, yet when absent, its lack is felt in barren landscapes and concrete vistas. I speak here of the tree. The first tree appeared in the mid-Devonian period 385 million years ago. As forests rose in the latter part of this period the Earth’s CO2 concentration was reduced which resulted in a cooling of the planet. We thus know this technology works.

oak_tree

Trees can be large and small, narrow and broad. But no matter their size, the carbon content of woody matter (trunk, branches and roots) is about 50 %.  Researchers at Ecometrica derived a general equation for the mass of a tree based on its dimensions and calculated that a mature sycamore of height 12 m contains one ton of carbon. And this ton of carbon would have locked up 3.67 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere in a form pleasing to the eye and of much use to fauna and ecosystems.  Simple is beautiful.

 

References

  1. Mauna Loa Observatory Data
  2. Hansen et. al. (2008). Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?
  3. Mark Fischetti. 2-Degree Global Warming Limit Is Called a “Prescription for Disaster”. Scientific American Dec 2011.
  4. Robinson et. al. (2012). Multistability and critical thresholds of the Greenland ice sheet. Nature Climate Change 2, 429 – 432