We tend to think of Canada as a world leader in preserving natural habitat and forests. Wrong. In fact, Canada ranks way down the list and a long ways behind — get this — India, where you can see just as many wild species as in Africa.
Canada is only slightly behind Russia and Brazil for extraction of forested lands.
It seems that, in Canada, if we are not clearcutting forested areas to the maximum, then we are burning them away with human-caused fires.
I was a little startled to hear the claim of conservationist Harvey Locke, on CBC recently, that much previously forested areas are returning to grasslands due to lack of moisture.
In the Okanagan, it has been the longest driest and hottest summer on record. Obviously, to get clearcut and even burned-out forests to come back, the trees will need moisture.
If moisture does not come adequately, will we simply be creating a grassland or more of a desert environment?
Each tree gives off tons of moisture, over a period of time, that has been taken up in its root system. The roots act to stabilize the soil in slide prone areas. In winter, trees hold snow and allow a slower rate of evaporation or run off.
Destroy the trees and guess what? More slides, faster runoff leading to flooding, and perhaps a totally changed ecosystem or environment. It could be a desert-type grassland that we create.
Forests are a crucial “carbon sinks,” living engines for absorbing and storing carbon. The tropical forests store the most carbon of all, and no tropical forest on Earth is bigger than the Amazon.
It accounts for about half of all the carbon these forests store. But the Brazilian Amazon has lost nearly a fifth of its forest cover already — and the forest left behind also
suffers because it is more fragmented and less continuous. This leads to the extinction of animal species.
The Amazon system as a whole, is at a precarious point. And the obvious thing is, you don’t want to find out where the tipping point is by tipping it.
Some think we already have. Perhaps we have created an Amazon North.
Stopping rapid deforestation could buy precious time to ratchet down fossil fuel emissions. It’s very hard to suddenly convert everyone to electric cars, and power generation is gradually changing, but it’s going to take decades.
But deforestation can literally be stopped point blank with the commitment of countries.
Slow down logging processes, and make more efficient use of wood. Protect more areas.
Locally, it is time for a public inquiry that looks at how our whole ecosystem is managed, including, logging, water distribution and storage, fire response and flooding. The City of Kelowna and the Central Okanagan Regional district must get a better understanding of all that is going on in the natural environment.
Why are our watersheds open to pretty much all that is imaginable?
Scientists have argued for years that it is the forests that create the weather part of the water cycle and that by their destruction, we significantly change the weather.
What is increasingly clear is that the birds, the forests and all of its other life, the rainfall, the carbon — they all come as a package. Ecologists have known this for decades
And what’s equally clear is that climate change isn’t just about temperature, or about fossil fuels. It’s about all the ways that humans keep pushing gigantic deforestation systems, like the Amazon, and hoping that they’ll bounce back.
The bounce back and weather payback seems to be getting less and less.
Will our Amazon North bounce back?
Hopefully, it is not too late to have learned the lessons.
Reg Volk writes on politics and local issues.