Forest Aid: Angeles has launched, but we can't do it without you!

70,000 trees. 250 acres. 9,000 volunteers. 3 years.

Last Thursday, February 24, volunteers, TreePeople staff, the U.S. Forest Service and the foothill community, gathered to launch our efforts to restore the Angeles National Forest from the 2009 Station Fire. This isn’t the first time TreePeople has been in the Angeles Forest restoring it from fires, but this was not a usual fire. This fire burned 160,000 acres of the Angeles Forest. This forest produces 35% of the water for southern California. Nature will help large chunks of the forest recover by themselves, but it can’t do it all.  According to the Forest Service,  on 11,000 acres the soil is so badly damaged by the extreme heat of the fire, that the forest can’t heal itself, what grows back won’t be like the prime tree cover that was there before. That’s where we come in. We’re going to help the forest heal in the areas where it cannot heal itself, and we can't do it without you.

A holiday for the trees

Thousands of years ago, rabbis created an annual holiday to honor trees: Tu B’Shevat, which was celebrated last month. The rabbis knew what we lose when we sacrifice trees, long before the we began to pay the price of industrialization. The cedars of Lebanon, the pines of Rome, the rich forests of Greece – all were brought down for purposes now forgotten, and the nations that fell them soon enough fell themselves. As documented in the book Collapse, by Jared Diamond, civilizations that have allowed their forests to be destroyed have gone on to perish. It’s fairly simple, a well-known cycle in history. When trees and forests are cut down, the land turns barren. Disastrous flash floods, erosion of top soil, desertification, drought and famine follow. The rabbis knew this.
    Tu B’Shevat celebrates the trees, the care and protection they offer, as well as what they can give in return for our care, the tangible and tasty fruits of our mutual efforts. They are our finest ecological producers, our planet’s life support system. They produce oxygen and take in carbon dioxide, but just as important, if less discussed, is the role they play in moderating climate, soaking up downpours, filtering pollution out of water and out of the air, cooling us and shading us and protecting us from the heat and radiation of the sun. 

Water security: a gallon saved is a gallon earned

Last year ended with a real soak: L.A. experienced the second rainiest December since 1889. Unfortunately most of that rain went pouring out to sea, and a big part of the the soaking we received was economic.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Bettina Boxall nailed it in a front page LA Times Story, In a region that imports water, much goes to waste. Boxall opens with an unfortunate Los Angeles irony that we at TreePeople have been working to overcome for years: 

The [same] region that laid pipe across hundreds of miles and tunneled through mountains to import water also built an extensive storm drain system to get rid of rainfall as quickly as possible. That's exactly what happened last week, when tens of billions of gallons of runoff that could lessen the region's need for those faraway sources were dumped into the Pacific. Enough water pours from Los Angeles streets to supply well over 130,000 homes for a year.

We lose a nearly eight billion gallons of water, according to the US Geological Survey, for every inch of rainfall in the Los Angeles region that we discard. To replace this wasted water, we import additional billions of gallons of water a year from the Sierra and northern California, via the State Water Project at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars and an enormous amount of energy.

Capturing, cleaning, and storing rain, could help protect us not only from drought, but from the big, dangerous hundred-year storms that climatologists tell us will become increasingly likely this century - and in fact are happening in Australia. It would make us water secure, stem the flow of money that's hemorrhaging from our current system, and help restore the ecosystem that sustains us.

A Republican calls for climate change action

At Governor Schwarzenneger's Global Climate Change Summit last month, at which I was a panelist, the keynote address was given by a Republican, George Schultz, who even in his eighties is still one of our nation's most distinguished policymakers.

Schultz is one Republican who has a lot to say on the subject of climate change.

Despite his conservative background, in government Schultz has consistently pioneered change for America and the world. As Secretary of Labor in the Nixon administration, he was the man who first compelled labor unions to accept black workers. A couple of years later, as Secretary of the Treasury, Schultz founded the G-7 Economic Council, and moved the world away from the gold standard. In the l980's, as Secretary of State, Schultz recognized the threat of the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, and helped negotiate the international treaty that led to the control of chlorofluorocarbon emissions that were eating away at this crucial protection not just for our country or species, but for the entire planet.

He sees climate change in the same terms.

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