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Monday, May 22, 2006

The trees in our minds

Saturday, the 6th of May. While the core group of volunteers of The FREEMAN Foundation was heading to a site in Tuyan, Naga for a scheduled ocular inspection relative to our desire to conduct a tree-planting activity in time for this paper’s 87th anniversary, I got thrilled at the thought that as coordinator of this special project I would be able to lead a humble start of a long-term project to be dedicated to the late Baby Kara Tejam.
Baby Kara was one of sick indigent children that The FREEMAN Foundation had attended to. She was only a little over a year old when she was diagnosed with congenital heart disease. When the foundation learned of her family’s need to raise P200,000 to fund her operation, a campaign was published in this paper’s public service section.

The fund drive served as a barometer on our readers’ innate goodness. In less than two weeks, the amount was raised. But Baby Kara failed to hold on to dear life. Until today, and every time I write a piece about how Baby Kara’s memories left us in tears as we watched her fund drive end along with her vulnerable life, the desire becomes an urge to seek for the creation of a tree park where her spirit could live among trees.

In a strategic planning in December, I came up with two proposals – a mangrove propagule planting activity for a coastal reforestation project, and a tree park to be dedicated to the memories of little Baby Kara whose fate all squeezed our hearts.

In the morning of May 6 we were already shown a site at Inoburan, Naga for our mangrove propagule planting on July 15. But before we could start checking the site for the proposed tree park, we already were served of disheartening issues that translate into threats to the “trees conceived in our minds”.

Love of trees

I could hear the beat of enthusiasm reverberating from the hearts of my co-volunteers with their reception from that moment I presented the proposals. It doesn’t take one to be an established arborist to manifest his one great love of trees. I know and feel that they too have learned over in time the benefits of planting trees.

They were one with me as I discussed during the strategic planning that if each of us could at least bring five trees to maturity that would mean 80 trees. Eighty trees would mean 20 natural cooling systems. If we would be able to nurture 80 trees to maturity on slopes that would mean stabilization of the topsoil. Remember that when it rains hard, the topsoil loses its friction with the subsoil, triggering mudslides and floods that are threats to lives and properties.

I did imagine that if about a hundred employees of this paper would be able to take good care of their saplings and bring these to maturity, there would be 500 trees at the park for our Baby Kara. Having these trees around would create a mini-forest that would act like a huge water reservoir, preventing flashfloods from occurring. It would be buffering water because of its storage capacity to keep water in streams even during dry season.
In the long run, the tree park would be able to create a habitat for both plant and animal life. As it encourages vegetation, it would create biological corridors that would allow these animals to move between natural jungle areas often cut off to them by farms and towns and industrial zones. Reforesting can also store certain tree species crucial to endangered birds.

Aside from economic values, trees are very good in carbon sequestering. Trees store carbon and as long as they are not burned or allowed to rot, the wood will lock up carbon, helping to slow global warming.

Threats to the trees in our minds

But before we could even check the site we were already posed with the challenges to restudy first our plan and consider points such as if our trees would not become obstructions in the desired place where we would want to plant them. Says a representative from Wild Bird Club Phils, Inc. Nilo Arribas, Jr. “your tree might end up at the wrong place. Think a hundred times of the chances of your trees being able to reach maturity. It is not about quantity, this is about how many saplings would be able to grow into trees.”
The fact that the timberland area belongs to the government, there is also the threat that one day our trees might end up chopped and sold at the market to give way to a cleared area for the site of an industrial zone should this become a priority of the local government of Naga.

After a consultation with community partners and officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, we considered to drop the tree-planting project for the meantime. Hope we won’t appear chickens for doing so, but we have to be practical. Our would-be efforts are for an ailing environment. Our intention is pure, and we don’t want to mess up with any town officials or any entities that might find industrial zones valuable over reforestation programs.
The decision to postpone the tree-planting activity came after we were told to consider that we need to shed considerable amount for the fencing of our area, then provide a guard who would conduct roving to secure the area from stray animals that might feed on saplings. Also, constant monitoring is needed so the saplings would be watered and tree guards replaced if necessary, and the area brushed from weeds that might compete in soil nutrients. And then, there is the big need to educate settlers in the area so they would not chop down these trees and sell them as firewood in the market. As economics is the very reason why settlers would cut down trees, we were challenged to help in providing an alternative livelihood for the community.

At lunchtime, the core group decided to vote for the pushing of our coastal reforestation undertaking in Inoburan, Naga which is easier to organize and facilitate.

Okay, our love of trees is “inalienable”. We cannot profess to be hardcore arborists, but the desire has already transmuted to passion. But how far can this love of trees carry our intentions is the big question. After having been enlightened of the pros and cons, we realized that the real challenge lies not on the planting of trees, but on sustaining them to maturity.

7/21/2006 07:09:00 PM | Anonymous A1ah8RNph0 said....   

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