World Forests should be a Human Right - 24 Jul 12:05
We live in an era where it is generally accepted that future generations may never lay eyes on many of the species we have taken for granted in our own lifetime. This is why Food & Trees for Africa’s founder, Jeunesse Park, gathered together a group of concerned individuals in 1990 with the realisation that the real environmental crisis in this country centred on people, uplifting quality of life and addressing climate change.
Twenty-two years later, Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) sees the effects of climate change impacting on more people than ever across the globe. The importance of education and awareness about environmental issues could not be more needed and this underpins all of FTFA’s work. This green work now includes the distribution of over 4.1 million trees, the facilitation of thousands of organic food gardens for the poorest, the world first verified bamboo carbon offset programme, organic farm support and training, the initiation of the first carbon calculator and mobi site calculator in South Africa and much more.
One way for society to get involved and learn about the environment is through the environmental days that occur annually. In South Africa, World Forestry Day and Human Right’s Day fall on the same day: 21 March.
“While this might not seem significant, at FTFA, we don’t think this is just coincidence because we believe that forests and ensuring that future generations are able to witness our world’s forests, enjoy environmental justice and live in a healthy environment are a basic human right,” says Park.
World Forestry Day, has been celebrated for over 40 years now, the concept originating from the 23rd General Assembly of the European Confederation of Agriculture in 1971. That same year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation gave support to the idea, hoping that it would raise awareness of the importance of forests. World Forest Day stands as an annual reminder of the importance of forests and the numerous benefits we gain from them.
“In a world where people know more yet understand less about natural resource extraction and what we are doing to ourselves by destroying the lungs of the planet, it is unfortunate World Forestry Day does not happen everyday,” says Lucky Xaba, FTFA ecopreneur. “And, considering the numerous benefits of trees, as well as the critical role forests play in global ecosystems, it seems fitting that in South Africa, Human Rights Day falls on the same day.”
Human Right’s day is an annual reminder of South Africa’s past, where on this day in 1960, the police brutally killed 69 people in Sharpville as they protested against the unjust past laws. The purpose of this day is to ensure that South Africans are not only aware of their human rights, but more importantly that the past may never be repeated.
Ironically, as deforestation continues at an alarming rate, FTFA hopes that society will learn from the mistakes of the past and that future generations will get to see what our great forests look like in real life and not just as pictures in a book.
The UN’s data shows that half the world’s forests were destroyed in the last century. What will be left by the end of this century? We can only hope that humanity will rise to the occasion and protect our forests. And this shouldn’t just be a wish, it should be a right.