Let’s pretend we believe in climate change, but not at the expense of GDP

By Clive Blazey, Founder of The Diggers Club.

Eucalypts dominate Australia like no other tree anywhere on the planet.
Whilst trees evolved about 370 million years ago, eucalypts (including Angophora and Corymbia) are mostly late developers, becoming dominant about 20 million years ago after the continents split and our continent dried out. Some say it was grasses that benefited from this dominance because eucalypts et al accelerated the decline of rainforest trees. Being so flammable they produced the ingredients for fire (dead leaves, bark and branches) but their seeds and fire-retardant basal trunks survived the fires that destroyed their competition – a cunning device, some say, of predator deliction!

There are over 800 eucalypt species that have adapted from the deserts, the plains, the alps and the tropics, being both faster growing and more adaptable than any other tree.
Baron Von Mueller collected eucalypt seeds 150 years ago and sent them around the world, so successfully they now dominate the dry landscape in parts of California, Italy, Spain and India. Their ability to outcompete, as a consequence of climate change with rising temperatures and declining rainfall, is like adding fuel to the fire of its superior adaptability. Eucalypts, in a very short period of evolution, are winning the race to become the tallest trees, the fastest growing and subsequently the fastest way to bring carbon down to earth.

But amongst Australians, the smell of crushed gum leaves evokes the most incredible attachment, particularly from the volatile oils whose flammability is so pervasive and destructive.

Will the planting of eucalypts, because of their rapid growth, be an important solution to bringing carbon back to earth or the seductress that, through its flammability, destroys our best intentions?

The latest estimate of tree populations is that we have three trillion trees on this planet. Through the pursuit of more and more Gross Domestic Product we have destroyed 46% of this wonderful legacy.

Even today, when we clearly understand the carbon cycle and impact that it is having on our modern climate system, we continue to cut down 15 billion trees but replant only 5 billion each year. When will we ever learn?

Members, have your say and we will reproduce it in our Dear Diggers pages.

Editor & Co-founder of Diggers

Clive Blazey
Footnote:
When trees decompose, they enrich the soil that grows our food, our wine and the timber for our houses – and it’s all free! One has to wonder how it was that humans, given the gift of life for free, have put their lives in danger by cutting down so many trees.

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