Friday, 16 December 2011

2011: The Year of The Forest?


In 2012, the year of the forest, at least 50,000 (check number of trees) have been felled on the Table Mountain National Park and within Cape Town.  The reason given is that the trees consume precious water resources.  However, this is only one variable in a complex equation.  Millions of birds, their chicks, snakes, other fauna and hundreds of millions of flora that live under the forest canopy have been murdered in this process.  Billions of essential bacteria living in the ground has been destroyed.  And we are left with a more acidic environment, with less ground cover and fewer trees holding the soil, thus erosion will be increased radically.  Trees remove toxins from the ground, provide oxygen to the air, provide an environment where people can go walking and stay fit, and provide a myriad other environmental needs.  Removing the trees has also dramatically increased South Africa's carbon footprint, just at the time that ministers are saying South Africa needs help from the "developed world" at COP17.  If we don't start in our back yard, we cannot expect help.

We have spoken to the chief director of environmental affairs of PAWC environmental department who told us that the trees should have been replaced with indigenous trees.  This has not happened and in the process we have lost a forest that was planted by our ancestors whose vision saw a massive growth in the population of South Africa; a population that would need trees to survive.  And this population has allowed our trees to be chopped down and sold to the highest bidder.

As far as water goes, it is true that the water table decreases when there are trees, but the benefits outweigh this particular disadvantage.  Furthermore, the Table Mountain Range has something like 35 springs that could provide enough fresh water for half the citizens of Cape Town, but most of this water is allowed to run into the sea.  South African Breweries, Woolworths, and some other companies make use of this water.  Citizens fetch water at a couple of the strings, for example in Spring Road, in Newlands.

New research in Israel and Germany, the only two countries in the world that ended the 20th Century with more trees than they started with, show that creating a indigenous rain forest makes weather patterns less erratic and we can see that weather patterns in Cape Town have started becoming more erratic with storms in the middle of summer, cold temperatures and new snow on the Ceres mountain range.

In Gaviotas in Columbia, a non-indigenous forest was planted as a way of getting trees into an arid area.  After 10 years, local seeds that had been dormant in the soil for perhaps thousands of years germinated and the natural forest canopy took over.  If the seeds in the soil of Table Mountain had seen the opportunity, they too would have germinated.

So we have cut down trees which supposedly use our water, whilst at the same time wasting the water from our springs.  And furthermore, most of our water in Cape Town comes from the huge dams in the Hottentots Holland Mountain Range, 60km South East of Cape Town, so what is the problem?

It is time for the Citizens of this beautiful city to get together and prevent more destruction of our precious environment.  We cannot rely on our leaders and government to do it for us anymore, be they ANC or DA.  Our government is meant to be an organisation that are "public servants", but unfortunately governments today see the public, who pay their salaries, as their servants and this situation must change.

Showing that we are concerned about our trees will change this behaviour pattern and make Cape Town and the Western Cape into an environment that we all want to live in.  Positive energies created will lead people to look at creating their own electricity, collecting their own rain water (as our grandparents used to do), dealing with our own sewerage, collectively growing our own vegetables and chickens, and generally leading to an increased vitality and health, unknown in the past couple of decades.

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