A Look Inside the Grass Roots Race to Reforest the Planet
Anna Hunt, Staff
People throughout the world are finally understanding the need to reforest the planet. Trees are vital to the current of life on planet Earth. They consume carbon dioxide gasses and produce oxygen; they play an important role in the rainfall cycle; they keep our soil fertile and prevent erosion; and they protect and nurture millions of animal and insect species.
This is precisely why Jennifer Smith, an idealistic conservationist with a passion for trees, founded Community Carbon Trees, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to reforesting land in Costa Rica and creating local jobs in the process. Over the last 14 years, Smith and her organization, with the involvement of Costa Rican landowners, have planted over 500,000 trees. This ground-roots organization is doing essential work to reforest farms and ranches in local communities, outside of protected conservation areas, helping Costa Rica become one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
“Ideally, we have to find ways to preserve local communities and cultures, while immediately rebuilding deforested soils, wildlife corridors and protecting watersheds and old growth forests. This work is especially important in countries like Costa Rica where there still exist intact stretches of primary jungle along the coast which, in turn, influence the oceans and marine life, together so vital to the overall stability of our global climate”.
Deforestation in Costa Rica
Up until the 1940’s, almost 75 percent of Costa Rica was covered by forests. Within the following four decades, the national forest coverage decreased to around 25% because very little was being done to reforest lands, while globalization started to reap the natural resources of the country. In the 1960’s and 70’s, subsidies were given to the Costa Rican government from North American fast-food industry corporations, such as Wendy’s and Burger King, to distribute land among landowners to promote cattle ranching. These landowners burned down the rainforest to make space for cattle. In the 1980’s, the lumber industry partook in the irresponsible clearing of massive stretches of primary forest, setting Costa Rica on a path to complete destruction of the forests and soil, similar to what has happened in Haiti, which is dubbed the Tropical Desert.
Community Carbon Trees – Ground Roots Conservation
Jennifer Smith’s work initially consisted of similar smaller projects on private lands. Yet, realizing the importance of reforesting large, continuous stretches of land, Smith sought her own biological corridor, where she could work with communities to educate, offer employment and, of course, plant trees. As of 2005, Community Carbon Trees has been working in the Valley of San Juan de Dios down along the Rio Guabo in the Central Pacific region. They are establishing a larger reforested area and creating a synergistic community that will collectively reap the benefits of their reforestation efforts.
The United Nation is now conducting a detailed impact study of Community Carbon Trees’ work performed over the last year, and Smith hopes that her organization becomes a model that can be implemented in reforesting in other countries around the equator.
Addressing Global Problems
What happened in Costa Rica is not unique. The forests in most countries around the equator, such as the Brazilian Amazon, have suffered greatly since the 1960’s to make way for cattle ranching and crop cultivation as governments loosened their restrictions on protected lands to benefit from high beef prices and foreign agricultural interests. As commerce expanded in the region during the 1970’s and 80’s, transportation projects, the lumber industry, and need for new fertile soil for crops such as soybean were culprits to even more deforestation. Within 40 years, people had cut down about one-fifth of the Amazon, which is the largest continuous forest on the planet and responsible for providing around 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen. Although around 2004 deforestation rates started to slow significantly, now oil drilling threatens what is left of fragile rainforest lands.
“Biodiversity is the specialization of the chain of life. Our strength and our beauty come from our bio-diversity. If one of the links changes, we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
A Call to Conscious Global Citizens to Reforest the Planet
On a global basis, especially in first-world countries, people are becoming more concerned about variations in climate and protecting biodiversity, realizing that governments and politics will not save them from these problems. Yet many, who call themselves awake, enlightened or environmentally-conscious, often assume that groups like Community Carbon Tress receive most of their funding from private interest groups and organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and the UN. Yet, it is through individual donations of $25 per tree on the part of conscious global citizens that this organization’s efforts persist.
“Enlightenment without action is hallucination.” ~ Unknown
The role that you want to play in reforesting our planet is up to you. If you cannot personally become involved in planting trees, helping financially is a great way to support groups such as Community Carbon Trees, be it that you make a personal donation or start a Tree Fundraiser. Also, there are organizations that offer Costa Rica vacation packages and will collaborate with activist groups such as Community Carbon Trees, which focus on planting a variety of trees, stress the importance of continual maintenance, and focus on reforesting areas close to the equator, where trees sequester carbon dioxide 365 days a year and can have the most significant global impact.
**All quotes are made by Jennifer Smith, Founder and President of Community Carbon Trees in Costa Rica, unless noted otherwise. Sponsor a tree with Community Carbon Trees here: http://www.communitycarbontrees-costarica.com/sponsor_now.php
Read more articles from Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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