Let us Conserve Forests and Protect our Lives

“दश कूप समा वापी, दशवापी समोह्नद्रः। दशह्नद समः पुत्रों, दशपुत्रो समो द्रमुः।”

One step is equal to ten wells, one pond is equal to ten step-wells, one child is equal to ten ponds and one tree is equal to ten children.

Life on our planet is about an intricate balance of give and take. It is about us humans, respecting and honouring our greatest provider- the nature that we live in. There is an inseparable connection between humans and nature. We turn to nature for all our basic necessities, socio-economic development, and even technological growth. The entire ecosystem that we live in, is largely conserved by the forests that surround us. The Sanskrit sloka given above is taken from the ancient Indian text Vrikshayurveda written by the great physician Surapala who tells us the importance of growing trees, our greatest givers. There are many aspects of our lives that are linked to forests in one way or another. Our daily activities like drinking a glass of water, writing in a notebook, taking a printout on paper, taking medicines for fever, or building a house are all intricately connected with forests.

To raise awareness and make us understand the importance of forests, the United Nations celebrates 21st March as the International Day of Forests. All countries are encouraged to take efforts at a local, national, and international level to organize activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns. In India, we have the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change play an active role in trying to maintain a logical balance between the development needs of the country and taking steps to ensure afforestation and protect wildlife habitat and green forests. The theme for 2023 is ‘Forests and health’, with the slogan ‘Healthy forests for healthy people’.

Forests give us so much to our health. They purify the water, clean the air, capture carbon to fight climate change, provide food and life-saving medicines, and improve our well-being. Forests make our lives better in countless ways. Being near trees helps boost our immune systems, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve mood. Several studies have proved that a visit to a forest environment lowers blood pressure and pulse rate, and reduces cortisol levels.

In children, forests help them to get healthy and boost their social development. When forests are healthy and well-managed, they safeguard the health of our planet, by mitigating climate change, protecting biodiversity, and building resilience to natural disasters. Forests are precious to us in numerous ways and help to manage and grow them sustainably should be our key focus.

A few reasons to remind us as to why we should conserve forests are:

  • Forests are a vital source of food and nutrition. Globally, more than 1 billion people depend on harvesting wild food such as herbs, fruits, nuts, meat, and insects for nutritious diets. In many remote tropical areas, the consumption of wild meat is estimated to cover between 60 – 80 percent of daily protein needs.
  • Forests are natural pharmacies and provide forest-derived medicines for so many ailments. Around 50,000 plant species that grow in forests have medicinal value.
  • Healthy forests protect us from diseases and have traditionally been acting as a natural barrier to disease transmission between animals and humans. But with deforestation and changes in land use, the risk of diseases spilling over from animals to people is rising.
  • Forests boost our mental and physical health. Spending time in forests increases positive emotions and decreases stress, blood pressure, depression, fatigue, anxiety, and tension. Trees in cities also absorb pollutant gases from traffic and industry and filter fine particulates such as dust, dirt, and smoke, which help shield urban populations from respiratory diseases.
  • Forests play a central role in combating the biggest health threat facing humanity: climate change. Healthy forests help keep global warming in check: forests contain 662 billion tonnes of carbon, which is more than half the global carbon stock in soils and vegetation. Forests and trees also help shield exposure to heat and extreme weather events caused by climate change. For example, trees properly placed around buildings cool the air and can cut air conditioning needs by up to 30 percent and save energy.
  • Forests are under threat and need our help. Ten million hectares – roughly the equivalent of 14 million football pitches – of forest were lost per year to deforestation between 2015 and 2020. Forest insects damage around 35 million hectares of forest annually. The fire affected approximately 98 million hectares of forest globally in 2015.
  • Our forests are vulnerable. Despite all these priceless ecological, economic, social, and health benefits, forests are endangered by fires, pests, droughts, and deforestation. It’s up to us to safeguard these precious natural resources. It is the responsibility of humans to protect nature and create a healthy environment in the present, so as to leave something behind for future generations. Forests also play a crucial role in poverty alleviation and in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The best way forward is to take action now and make a difference to protect our trees and forests. Some of the best practices children and adults can make a part of our lives are:

  • Start by learning more about how forests are faring in your neighborhood.
  • Support your local parks and forests by visiting them and joining community events.
  • Talk to your family members and friends about buying sustainably produced forest products.
  • Find ways to reduce waste and conserve the water and energy you use at home and school.
  • Learn how you can support local and environmentally friendly businesses and raise awareness about reducing carbon footprints.
  • Every sustainable choice that you make in your daily life ultimately benefits our forests and trees.
  • Think of creative ideas to promote ecosystem restoration by planting trees and promoting sustainable consumption.

Let us come together for giving back and not just taking, because healthy forests will create healthy people.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. – Mahatma Gandhi

—– Adv. Vasundhara Devi, Parent

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