Counting Trees to Crusade against Climate Change -Wahidul Islam
Trees were abundant in old good days. The planet was lush green. Most probably it looked like heaven which, described in the Holy Quran and other holy scriptures, is full of trees. Arabic word Jannat is synonymous with garden, grove, greenery etc quite opposite of Jahannam which is synonymous with fire, high temperature, a place devoid of greenery, peace and tranquillity. The earth was full of plants, herbs, and trees. Nature was the all-provider for the small number of humanity. Adam and Eve family had to cultivate land and raise cattle for supply of staple food and essential protein like meat.
So people in those days had to work less for their food and shelter and other necessities. The workaholics today were unthinkable in those days. Trees used to supply people with natural drinks to satiate their thirst, fruits to check vitamin and mineral deficiency, fibre and other natural things for dress, herbal treatment in sickness though everything in primitive fashion. Fishes in water bodies, animals in wilderness, birds on trees were in plenty. Even creepers quite unknown to the present-day tech generations had a big role in providing sustenance to the humanity. Agriculture and agricultural sector only dominated the whole world as the service sector does it today’s modern world. After the industrial revolution industrial sector came to overpower the agriculture sector. These sectors — industrial and service — are relatively very young compared to that of agricultural sector which had been prevailing the planet from the time immemorial. So the farmers grab the lowest slab in the stratified society; much lower social position in comparison with other professionals like doctors, engineers, journalists, lawyers and teachers.
But deliberate belittling of the agriculture has started telling upon the wellbeing of the planet. Number of trees are being depleted. Temperature of the world is rising day by day for which industrial and service sectors are held more or less responsible. With high temperature the planet is being hellish and losing it’s heavenly and pristine character. Animal species are being extinct. Water bodies are dried out, birds and animals are facing extinction due to habitat loss.
So sense dawned on humanity. The extent and distribution of forestry is central to the understanding of terrestrial biosphere. Tree density at a global scale is mapped to know the present situation. This map reveals that the global number of trees is approximately 3.04 trillion. These trees are also used as home to five lakh birds of 10,000 types. Lakhs of insects and animals use these trees as their habitation. Due to gradual loss of habitation many species are already extinct and many more are threatened to be extinct. Of these trees, approximately 1.39 trillion exist in tropical and subtropical forests, with 0.74 trillion in boreal regions and 0.61 trillion in tropical regions. Biome-level trends in tree density demonstrate the importance of climate and topography in controlling local tree densities at finer scales, as well as the overwhelming effect of humans across most of the world. It is estimated that over 15 billion trees are cut down each year, and the global number of trees has fallen by approximately 46% since the start of human civilization.
In the context of decline of tree density and global climate change the United Nations Environment Programme established Champions of the Earth in 2004 as an annual awards programme to recognize outstanding environmental leaders at a policy level. Six awards are given out each year to a Laureate representing different geographical regions with one additional special prize.
The laureates of Champions of the Earth prize are invited to accept their award at an international ceremony, which publicizes and encourages the worldwide replication of the achievements of the Champions. This awards programme is a successor to UNEP’s Global 500 Roll of Honour.
As Bangladesh is a global hot spot for climate change studies so more and more Bangladeshis are taking the lead in the crusade against climate change. It has turned into an open university to study Climate Change, Environmental Science: Pollution and Monitoring, Natural Disaster Management. The country gives first-hand experience in dealing with Aila or Sidr. Under the leadership of Syeda Rizwana Hasan Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association got the Global 500 Roll of Honour in 2003. It was awarded by United Nations Environment Programme. She was awarded other prizes including The Inaugural Environment Award in 2007, by the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, Government of Bangladesh, for raising environmental awareness. She bagged Celebrating Womanhood Award in 2008 by the Nepal-based Creative Statements and South Asia Partnership. She got The Goldman Environmental Prize in 2009 and The Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2012. She has also been dubbed as a Hero of Environment by the American news magazine TIME.
But with the passage of time the Global 500 Roll of Honour of UNEP changed into Champion of the Earth. Another Bangladeshi came into focus. He is none but Atiq Rahman, one of the trendsetters in climate change. He was the second Bangladeshi to get the Champion of the Earth prize in 2008 for his national and international experience in sustainable development, and environment and resource management. As a lead author of IPCC, he is the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize 2007. He was also awarded the highest national environmental award by the Government of Bangladesh “The Paribesh Padak 2008”, for environmental technology and innovation. Dr. Rahman is the Executive Director of Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS) and a Lead Author of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) Chapter-19 on “Assessing Key Vulnerabilities and the Risk from Climate Change”. Dr. Rahman is a Visiting Professor of International Diplomacy and Sustainable Development at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Boston, USA. He was born in Bangladesh in 1950. He obtained BSc and MSc from Dhaka University. He was awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship 1974 and completed his PhD on solid state chemistry and low energy processes from Brunel University, London, UK in 1977.
As the third Bangladeshi but the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina is first awarded the Champions of the Earth (2015) for setting about ways how to tackle the issue of climate change.
The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009 made Bangladesh the first developing country to frame such a coordinated action plan. Bangladesh is also the first country to set up its own Climate Change Trust Fund supported by nearly US$300 million of domestic resources from 2009-2012. Her government earmarks 6-7 per cent of its annual budget on climate change adaptation. In addition, the Bangladesh Constitution was amended in 2011 to include protection of the environment and safeguarding natural resources for current and future generations. She was awarded 19 other honours including nine honourary doctorates, according to the Wikipedia on 21/11/2015. She also bagged Indira Gandhi Prize for 2009, Ceres Medal of Food and Agricultural Organisation for 1999, two United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation awards.
Global awareness about the importance of the greens and concern for climate change has been positively increasing day by day. But that is not enough to contain the crisis of climate change and loss of trees of the once lush green planet. Hedonism as well as consumerism should be harnessed by campaigning through print and electronic media. To keep the planet liveable the world must act more and the climate culprits must be held responsible both globally by the UN and glocally. The tree counting project aiming at a crusade against climate change should get properly rewarded.