by Andy Baker, Forest Manager South East England
It can sometimes all seem a little overwhelming. We hear so much about the climate catastrophe hurtling towards us and in a world of nearly 8 billion people how can you possibly make a difference on your own. Climate change is happening. Indeed, its effects can already be felt around the world, even in the UK. The record for the hottest day in July was broken last month, and the heatwaves last year saw widespread wildfires and drought across the country. Rising sea levels, air pollution, and a global biodiversity extinction can make you feel as though you just want to stick your head in the sand, block out any conversation about global warming and try to ride out the storm. But this won’t help the situation and doesn’t need to be the case. There is still hope.
Everything we do can make a difference. How you travel, how you eat, what you buy – all of these choices we make on a daily basis have a tremendous impact on our carbon footprint, and our influence on a multitude of social causes. I like to think of each of these choices – particularly what you buy – as a vote, if I buy some eggs from caged hens in plastic packaging then I am saying: “Yes, I agree with this, make more.” If I instead buy Fairtrade, free-range produce then I am supporting that instead. We, as consumers, have tremendous power, and its’ choices such as these that are our most deadly weapon in the fight against climate change. What is most difficult is balancing how important these issues are for you individually. When considering what food to buy, you are possibly considering (either consciously or subconsciously): cost, taste, health, allergies, dietary restrictions, storage, durability, packaging, air miles, season, Fairtrade, organic, free-range and more. Our daily challenge is to simply do our best to balance these criteria to make the most positive, sustainable change that we can.
We as forest managers are uniquely placed to influence many of these factors more significantly than most. Our recommendations to clients, our forest plans, and our effective management of contracts can lead to positive outcomes. With regards to climate change and carbon sequestration, our choices on species composition, ground preparation techniques, and even access routes can dramatically increase the carbon sequestration potential of woodlands.
The effects of climate change are not discreet; it is not as though ‘if’ it happens then we will all suffer a mega drought, and ‘if’ it doesn’t then things will remain exactly as they are. It is already happening and is going to get worse before it gets better. However, every kilogram of carbon dioxide that you keep out of the air, every piece of plastic you keep out of the ocean, and every ecosystem you help to preserve will mitigate climate change that much more.
Together, our choices can amount to monumental change. Sometimes it’s important to step back and see what cathedral you’re building when you put your stone in. Every little bit helps.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” – Gandalf, The Lord of The Rings