I live near a little town close to the Pacific Ocean called White Rock, BC. It’s a special place and I am very grateful to live here. In about 10 minutes, we can walk through a forested ravine trail to a flat beach that provides many miles of sand to explore at low tide. A little farther and you will find restaurants that offer everything from traditional take out fish and chips to white linen gourmet menus. There is much beauty here, and in the background of most views, we can see Mount Baker, an iconic volcanic mountain in Washington State. The mountain is only about 200km (125 miles) away and is an ever-present sight for residents of the area.
Now imagine an entire mountain range that close, but you didn’t even know it existed because you had never seen it in your entire lifetime.
That is the situation in India right now. In “Pollution Recedes Amid Lockdown, And A View Of The Himalayas Emerges For The First Time In 30 Years”, the author explains that due to the coronavirus pandemic, India, the world’s second-most populous country (with 1.38 billion citizens), has had the biggest lockdown in the world. No cars, motorbikes, tuk-tuks, or heavy machinery are operating, meaning greatly reduced air pollution. The air quality there has improved so much that the Himalayan mountains are visible from the Punjab region 200km away. The country recently had an air quality rating of “good” – a rating they didn’t get even one day last year.
Comments on social media are wonderful. Many people are astounded to see such impressive snow-capped peaks so close. Others simply forgot they were there and claimed they had not seen the mountains in 30 years; maybe since they were children.
While the view of mountains is nice, it is exciting to experience how quickly the air will clear if we simply reduce the amount of pollution we put into it.
The reduction of emissions is great, but one of the ways we can help to improve air quality further is to plant trees. One step better is to maintain existing forests. Most of us are very concerned about the destruction of tropical forests in the Amazon because they are known as the lungs of the earth; they provide much of the carbon capture and oxygen release for the entire planet. But many people aren’t aware of the role Northern forests play in the oxygen cycle. Established forests in the North, especially those with the larger, old-growth trees, play a huge role in this process and are essential for the health of our planet.
In “Major Victory for Alaska’s Majestic Trees and for the Climate” we read about the historic win for the environment last month when a US federal judge rejected a plan to cut 1.8 million acres of old-growth trees in the Tongass National Forest. Containing nearly one-third of the world’s old-growth temperate rainforest, the Tongass is home to large stands of trees that have lived on this planet for centuries. Some of these are even older than the United States itself. Giant old-growth trees provide far greater carbon absorption than their younger, smaller counterparts and are considered critical to keeping our planet below the 1.5-degree climate change tipping point. The Tongass alone stores billions of tons of carbon, keeping the heat-trapping element out of the atmosphere.
This is a huge win for Alaskans, environmentalists, and really, for everyone on the planet. In the face of extremely polarized politics around environmental issues, it is very encouraging to see laws upheld, corporate interests denied, and that common sense prevails.
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