WHEN God made the Earth, He gave human beings dominion over it.
But they did a lousy job of maintaining it in its pristine condition. Instead of taking care of the planet, mankind is close to putting it in ruin.
With just two people at the start of Creation (that is, from the Christian perspective), the world is now home to approximately 7.5 billion individuals.
“More inhabitants mean greater needs,” said Ulrich Kronberg, a German national, who is the president of Mama Earth Foundation. “This has led to an increase in demand for raw materials, which are being extracted from the earth to the hilt.”
If this trend continues, Kronberg is of the opinion that the world “might collapse.” Mitigation of the trend is needed to reverse the impending disastrous effects.
“There are no simple solutions. The connections that keep organisms on Earth alive are too complicated,” the German journalist lamented.
He now calls Davao City his second home, having stayed in the country for some seven years already. But he first stepped foot in the Philippines about 20 years ago.
“No book, as voluminous as it may be, can describe all paths which are possible and necessary in the field of environmental protection and nature conservation,” he added. “So where does one start? Whoever wants to tackle everything is bound to fail.”
The air we breathe
IN the beginning, Mama Earth emphasized on ending drift-net fishing, fur trade and factory farming around the world.
“These activities confront us with global timber scarcity and the alarming deforestation rate,” Kronberg reminded. Since then, the foundation’s primary focus has been on reforestation.
“Our projects are always accompanied by programs that improve the lives of the local population,” he explained. “This is the way to counter the overexploitation of primeval, natural and tropical rain forests.”
“Sometimes, [these activities are done out of] ignorance, often to make quick profits, [but are] always irrespective of the consequences,” the German national pointed out.
Mama Earth considers people as the “fulcrum” in the entire scheme of things.
“First of all, people need at least 10,000 liters of clean air daily for breathing,” he explained. “Clean air takes precedence over all other needs. Crystal-clear water and abundant meals are worthless without adequate breathing air.”
To produce oxygen required for aerobic respiration, plants and trees are needed to process carbon dioxide that humans emit.
“Trees and forests produce abundant oxygen, so we need more of [them],” he said. “A full-grown tree can supply at least 10 people with breathing air.”
He got that idea from Dr. Jorn Wittern, a professor, who said: “A broad-leafed tree produces 2 kilograms of oxygen in one hour. A person consumes 2 kilograms of oxygen per day. Every liter of gasoline which powers a motor or a turbine consumes 2 kilograms of oxygen.”
Reforestation, climate change
THIS is the main reason Mama Earth is batting for reforestation, as “every tree counts.”
In fact, Kronberg considers forests as “air-conditioning systems.” They make this planet conducive for living.
Unfortunately, man continues to cut forests at an alarming rate. Recent statistics reveal that the country’s total land area of 30 million hectares has only 15.8 million hectares classified as forests, or approximately 52.7 percent. The remaining 47.3 percent, or 14.2 million hectares, is considered as “alienable” and “disposable” land.
But what is disturbing is that only 6.8 million hectares are the actual forest cover of our country—or less than half of the 15.8 million hectares supposed to be classified as forestland.
As a result of continuous global deforestation, the world now has less forest cover to protect itself from the scorching heat of the sun. With rapid industrialization, there are higher concentrations in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, which binds more heat and leads to rising temperatures.
Greenhouse gases—primarily water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and man-made chlorofluorocarbons—are the primary cause of climate change. These elements, which actually make sustaining life possible, ironically warm our planet.
According to scientists, if these gases were less plentiful or entirely absent, temperatures on Earth would average below-freezing. But having more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is bad news.
“As concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rise, the global mean temperature has increased by 0.8 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels,” a World Bank report explained. “Most of the warming has occurred since 1970, with the rate…in [recent] decades being nearly double than that of the past century.”
Offsetting carbon footprint
KRONBERG had this to say: “Any individual who drives 10,000 kilometers yearly with his car that consumes on average 8 liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers burns 800 liters of gasoline. This results [to a release in the atmosphere of] 1,864 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year.”
According to him, that person needs to plant 133 trees annually to counterbalance the carbon-dioxide emissions.
One of the foundation’s more notable tree-planting activities recently took place in the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte.
“The successful planting of over 1.2 million mangrove plants for the fishermen around the Davao Gulf is almost complete,” he reported. “A lot of shore zones have once more become breeding grounds for fish, and are now the new homes to birds and reptiles.”
This reintroduction of mangroves in Samal was “the first big planting project of Mama Earth,” he declared. The reforestation was done in coordination with the government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The success of the project was attributed to the involvement of the local community. “The concept is simple: the seeds [of mangroves] are collected by fishermen and their families, then put into simple plant pots that are filled with mud to allow the seedlings to grow. They are ready for planting five to six months later. To avoid transportation costs and stress for the seedlings, we let the inhabitants who live in the vicinity of the planting location grow them.”
Investment on wood, ‘hearts’
CURRENTLY, Mama Earth is performing what it calls as “wood investment.” Kronberg detailed: “We are allowed to trade with wood investments, since we give a 50-percent share to the farmers who make their land available and take care of the trees.”
He continued, “Every tree carries a number and could be allocated to the investor. To engage in timber forestry effectively, we are focusing on two fine woods which enjoy a high level of demand: mahogany and teak.”
All the planted trees are cared for by the farmers themselves, while Mama Earth monitors and keeps records of the growth to achieve best results.
According to Kronberg, they bring employment to the villages not only by letting the farmers keep their lands, but also by allowing them to earn well from their lands. Theft of trees is almost impossible since everyone lives in neighboring communities.
Kronberg believes the projects would have failed had it not been for the active and personal involvement of the locals.
“Our work would not have been successful without the ‘hearts’ of the people,” he admitted.
Mama Earth Foundation’s main office is at the Don Dionisio Complex on Cabaguio Avenue, Davao City. For further details, visit www.mama-earth.de.