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Arboretums and Deforestation: Changing the Paradigm

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Cash Whitney is a freshman student writer and photographer at Dunn School in Los Olivos, California.

“Like most great societal changes, slowing deforestation must come from many people choosing to do the right thing.”

–Cash Whitney

At the time of writing this article it is 8:53 pm and today alone 66,656.39 hectares of trees have been burned or cut down. To put that into perspective, that’s about two-and-a-half football fields every second. Whether it be forest fires or deforestation, our modern society loves to talk about how trees are being destroyed, but few actually know how deforestation is affecting our world and the way an average person can help. 

Arboretums: Arboretums are a great way to educate yourself about trees. An arboretum is a botanical garden focused on trees and other similar greenery. Like zoos, they help educate people on the wonders of trees and protect endangered species. These acts help keep our planet healthy and maintain biodiversity. So finding and visiting a local arboretum can be a great step to learning more about trees in a fun, entertaining way. Even Dunn School is a registered arboretum. You can find many plaques around campus illustrating the generic and scientific names of trees found around the school along with interesting facts about them. 

Deforestation: About 10,000 years ago, fifty-seven percent of the habitable earth was covered by trees and forests — six million hectares (a hectare is about one American football field). Now we are down to four million. This may seem like a small change over 10,000 years but in the first 5,000 years, only ten percent (600,000 hectares) of this change occurred. It was not until the human population began building static societies that the true loss of forest land started. That means in just 5,000 years humans have caused or aided the destruction of 1,400,000 hectares of forestland. We lose 50,000 species a year due to the destruction of forests.

How you can help: Like most great societal changes, slowing deforestation must come from many people choosing to do the right thing.

  • Reduce the use of toilet paper: There are many more environmentally conscious, healthy, and more productive ways to clean yourself. Fifteen percent of all deforestation is caused by trees being cut for toilet paper. If we apply that to the number of hectares cut down today, that’s nearly 10,000 football fields The best alternative to toilet paper is a bidet. Bidets are often portrayed as something exclusively for the wealthy, but the truth is you can find a cheap bidet for just twenty dollars online. Not only are they environmentally conscious but they are more hygienic, less likely to spread germs, and reduce the risk of hemorrhoids. 
  • Try to keep away from palm oil: I may be biased toward this one due to my obsession with orangutans, but palm oil is one of the largest causes of deforestation in the world. It is in almost everything and that is why it is very hard to avoid it. Palm oil deforestation is also the leading cause of the endangerment of orangutans, pygmy elephants, the Sumatran tiger, and the Sumatran rhino. There is a solution to this, however — try to use RSPO-approved palm oil products. RSPO stands for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which was started in 2004. They choose which products are using palm oil from sustainable sources and attempt to help the fight against deforestation. There are so many things that have palm oil in them and you might not even know it. A quick Google search will show if a certain product is RSPO approved.
  • Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle: Trying to reduce the consumption of paper products and reusing as much as possible is a great way to fight deforestation. As a society we focus on recycling a lot, but often what we throw in the recycle bin ends up in the same place as the trash. It is important to emphasize the often forgotten “reduce” and “reuse”. There is still merit to recycling, so you shouldn’t stop doing it, but there is another way you can promote recycling. Many companies now are using one hundred percent recycled paper in their products and packaging. So by supporting green companies, you can encourage other businesses to make the switch to recycled paper.

We still have time to save our forests and find more environmentally conscious ways of living. If you feel like you need a refreshing break from the scary news headlines, go to your local arboretum and just relax with the trees.

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Cash Whitney
Cash Whitney
Cash Whitney was born in Santa Maria, in 2008. He is currently a freshman at Dunn School. This is the first time he has done photography on a large scale, and he has enjoyed getting to use his creativity in photos to take multiple layers to an image. Cash particularly enjoys self-portraits to allow him to show deeper levels of emotion and personality through images. Cash believes that photos can hold a deeper meaning and that portraits shouldn’t just represent a person, but the soul behind them as well.

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