BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) — This year’s Tree-Planting Day comes at a fitting time, as the memory of a sandstorm that ravaged large parts of north China last weekend is still stingingly fresh.
The National Afforestation Committee Office issued a report on Monday stating that some 600 million people helped to plant trees nationwide last year, with 2.6 billion trees planted. Volunteers have planted 64 billion trees since the government first encouraged participation in such activities in 1981, according to the report.
I was privileged to be taken on a tour of China some few years ago at the invitation of the UN. My task was to talk to Chinese officials about how they might plant trees for the benefit of Nature and Climate Change and in doing so to account for the CO2 that the trees of China take out of the air and turn into living trees and forests. I arrived thinking that since I had not read a lot about Chinese treeplanting they were likely behind countries in the America’s and Europe where I have worked extensively in treeplanting.
I could not have been more wrong in my assumptions and I could see how wrong I was by simply looking out of the window of the cars I was riding in as we drove from city to city in China. Everywhere my trained treeplanters eye was caught by the enormous numbers of newly planted trees. Trees that were less than about 25 years of age and trees planted every year in that time frame. The young trees are everywhere that a tree might be in China. It was a sight for sore eyes, the sore eyes I have being accustomed to seeing devastated deforested regions of Canada and the US.
In my meetings with Chinese forestry officials I was struck by another curiousity. They would come into the meetings dresses as if they had come out of a North American outdoors catalog. They were in fact dressed identically to my colleagues here in British Columbia that I have met with for decades. Working pants, big belts, shirts with two front pockets, and even cruiser vests. I brought up in conversation a very real mystery to me, why I asked of my Chinese conservation professionals, do we never see stories of their lives and their love of nature and how their work is on behalf of Nature. I explained that here in the West we are deluged with stories and features of people who work on behalf of Nature. We all idolize forest rangers, fisheries biologists, naturalists. I was asked in return, why would we publicize this work, it is undeniably the right thing to be doing everyone knows that, there is no need to seek publicity.
Another thing I remember and to this day it makes me smile is that in my meetings across China with people responsible for treeplanting in those meetings Chinese naturalists in many disciplines also attended, there were bird specialists, etymologists ( insects) specialists, small mammal peopl, large mammel people, fisheries people, and they all came with wonderful scrap books showing simple and revealing collections of photos taken over decades showing their undeniable work. Never in all of my meetings in Canadian environmental project reviews had I ever seen the quality and detail of the work the Chinese simply do day in and day out in an unreported but ever so worthy a fashion.