Arbour Month 2017: Riding the Climate Wave

Can you love trees?

Arbour Day Plant Fair DoE

Do you love trees?

Is their existence important to you?

Or do you just see them as overgrown bush that needs to be trimmed or removed to make way for modernisation? A home for bugs and wild animals that you would rather keep as far away from as humanly possible.

Or do you see them as just part of the wider landscape?

Where do you fit on the spectrum?

For a little over 15 years, the Department of Environment has been actively celebrating Arbour Month. Various methods and activities have been used to raise awareness of the importance of trees and encourage us all to take up the challenge to plant trees towards achieving a sustainable future.

The Department of Environment was not the first agency in Antigua and Barbuda to commemorate Arbour Day. The Ministry of Agriculture had long been practicing Arbour Day. Trees were distributed annually but eventually the Ministry stopped. Why did they stop? Because technicians at the Ministry realized that although there was great enthusiasm for collecting trees, people were not planting them. There are numerous anecdotes of technicians visiting homes and seeing saplings, now dead, from consecutive Arbour days lined up like terra cotta soldiers with the sacred responsibility of keeping the wall upright.

Backyard garden seedlings
Backyard garden seedlings
Photo by: DoE

Now maybe in the hustle and bustle of getting through the crowds and getting the desired trees people want to treat them like trophies of war to be put on display like monuments at a museum. Unfortunately, this practise results in the complete opposite to the goals of the activity. Trees create oxygen, fight against climate change, provide resources for sustenance and consumption. When the trees collected on Arbour Day are neglected and left to die, the process of decomposition results in the generation of carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas and driver of global warming.

As we celebrate another Arbour Month, perhaps we should take a little time to think about where we want to be as a nation and our evolving relationship with trees. As said by Theodore Roosevelt in his 1907 Arbour Day message, “It is well that you should celebrate your Arbour Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetime the nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted.”

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