Nearly 71% of Earth’s surface is covered with ocean and the rest 21% is land mass. For thousands of years, vast swathes of this land were covered mostly by dense forests. Mountains, rivers and lakes covered the rest. As human population expanded, human settlements ate into the forests to reclaim land for farming and building homes. This trend has continued apace for centuries. Forest cover on earth has shrunk to alarming level causing huge worries to environmentalists.
The plants and trees have fascinated humans from the dawn of civilization. The woods have fired the imagination of countless poets to write poems of great charm and literary value. Forests have beckoned painters in all ages to paint scenes on their canvasses. Thus, for the creative human mind, woods have remained as the fountain of inspiration.
For the average human being concerned with more mundane matters, forests provide resources such as firewood, logs, fruits, flowers and medicinal herbs. For myriad species of animals, forests provide the habitat. From the tiny bacteria eating up dirt from soil to the majestic elephant, tiger and lions, the dense foliage of trees, plants and creepers inside a forest provide food, shelter, and camouflage. The shrinking of forests, therefore, leaves us short of so many critical resources, and endangers the fauna that thrive in the protection of jungles. The soaring log prices, scarcity of firewood, and the frequent forays of leopards, tigers and elephants to villages in the fringe of forests are symptoms of receding forest boundaries.
For the scientific community, forests provide the maximum intrigue and the highest worry. Less vegetation means less photosynthesis. That amounts to more Carbon Dioxide and less Oxygen in the air. Loss of forests could, therefore, choke the living beings on earth to death one day. Dwindling forest cover will result in less rainfall, more soil erosion, deadlier floods and less animal density on earth. All these push the earth tantalizingly close to being a barren, dusty, lifeless planet.
Heartrendingly, people have become conscious about the importance of forest conservation in the last half century. Scientists calls to preserve forests now are being heeded by governments, NGOs, and even the tribal folks living off forest produce. Preservation of rain forests such as in Brazil’s Amazon Delta and the Java- Borneo belts now form topics in school books. Hunting of jungle animals is considered a loathsome hobby in modern days.
These are good tidings for the ecologists. But, the real change lies far off in the horizon. This will come only when we school children treasure our forests with the same care with which we tend to the rose plant in our garden. Forests are Nature’s gift – the bulwark against the excesses of the consumerist industrialized society. —————————-END—————————–