This Earth Day, stay focused

By Jay Farrell

Imagine looking out the plane window and capturing the first glimpse of your tropical island destination. A small green particle in a large blue sea. It is a vision of beauty, isolation and fragility. Then, the plane lands. Immediately, your focus shifts to the details and you lose the big picture.

I would imagine seeing the Earth from space is a similar experience. A particle of blue in the great darkness of space. It emanates calm, but only as long as it stays in focus. Consumed by the details of daily life, we do not see the fragile beauty of our planet. Earth Day helps us keep it in focus.

Earth Day celebrates the planet we all call home, an island in space. It reminds us all to be the best caregivers of our environment. For foresters, Earth Day affirms the work they do every day to protect and manage the world më largest renewable resource. Trees purify the air, filter the water, provide shade, and store carbon. They also offer us forest products, opportunities for recreation and space to reconnect with ourselves and our communities. No wonder planting trees is a popular Earth Day activity.

Looking at my career in forestry, nothing has been more influential than visiting the islands of Palau, Guam and Saipan. Every benefit the trees offer is magnified and every threat is more urgent in an isolated island ecosystem.

As you walk through the forests of Guam, silence is evident. The brown tree snake was introduced as an invasive species and within decades, had wiped out most of the bird populations on the island. Trees that relied on birds to propagate their seeds began to fall.

Passport with mortgage stamp Palau signed

Another invasive species, the rhino beetle, threatens to eliminate the iconic coconut tree. These beetles bloom without birds to feed on. Fortunately, Guam has an excellent forest agency that works with other trained professionals to combat invasive species. They also plant trees on steep slopes to prevent soil erosion that would otherwise destroy coral reefs.

Islands are Earth microcosms with interconnected ecosystems and economies. If coconut trees and coral reefs die, so does food security and tourism so vital to the island economies. If one bird species no longer exists, the impacts on other plant and animal species are profound.

To protect its ecosystems and economies, Palau became the first country in the world to issue visas only to visitors who sign an ecological promise. By signing the passport commitment, visitors promise to act in ecologically and culturally responsible ways during their stay on the island:

Children of Palau,
I take this commitment,
as your guest,
to preserve and protect,
you are beautiful and unique
island house.
I swear to walk easy,
act kindly and
explore with the mind.
I will not take
what is not given.
I will not hurt
what does not hurt me.
The only clues
I will leave are they
to be washed.

Palau’s ecological promise helps visitors focus on what matters so that they can travel on purpose. In this and other more obvious ways, Palau’s commitment characterizes the value of celebrating Earth Day. Today is our annual memory to keep in focus the Earth, our forests and everything we value outside.

Student art projects are a great source of inspiration for Earth Day. A wonderful creative illustration used thought bubbles to describe what the Earth thought of various actions. Like Palau’s Oath, this was a simple message with a powerful impact.

For you, perhaps making a commitment to reduce, reuse and recycle will give you the determination to shrink your carbon footprint. Perhaps, for you, the act of planting a tree will remind you of the power you have to shape a better and greener future. Whatever activity you do, celebrate Earth Day on purpose. With a little more focus, we can all contribute to a healthier and safer planet.

Jay Farrell is the Executive Director of NASF. He can be contacted by email at

Source link

Articles You Might Like

Share This Article

More Stories

Get Your Forest Fire Alerts

We track wildfires and news from satellites, newsbots and Tweets