Why the pressure of climate change means we must protect our forests

This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
Why the pressure of climate change means we must protect our forests

As fires burn in the Amazon and in Central Africa, protecting forests, both at home and abroad, will be a necessary step in the fight against climate change.

Before, as a water and forest Engineer, I worked for several years for the Belgian Ministry of Cooperation and Development in a programme for the management of the Amazonian forest. I also worked in Central America to refine strategies and action-plans in the battle against forest fires, ignited by farmers in order to extend their plantations and increase their profits. Our objectives were the management of an environment of good quality, to maintain durable development for the local populations and for all citizens.

Today, I am retired yet active in the area of public health, through the management and valuing of forests in my region of Brussels, the capital of Europe.

Protecting the forests in Brussels 

With the expression of opinions of over 400 citizens, neighbourhood committees, public and private institutions, and other associations, on the occasion of the public enquiry into the regional project of a Overall Plan for the Creation and Layout of a Mediapark, to be situated on the RTBF/VRT site located on Boulevard Reyers, we are defending, with the same objectives I followed in Central and South America, the protection of a rich wooded area containing trees that have been growing there for 60 years. Our action is in accord with numerous Brussels residents raising their voices democratically to preserve different forested sites and natural areas threatened by the chainsaws of political, financial and construction interests, which wish to replace nature with an excessive quantity of concrete.

The forests, in the Amazon, in Central America, and here in Brussels, play an essential role in our life and our survival.

An important time for action

It is a time when 75,000 people recently demonstrated in Brussels to defend our climate and the preservation of natural resources and biodiversity. 

It is a time when young people, and not-quite-so-young people, are demonstrating to point out the urgent need for concrete measures in the battle against climate change and its effects on public health. 

It is a time when the intense heatwave in the summer of 2019, broke records for high temperatures.

It is a time when dry spells combined with torrential rains and floods have affected Belgium in 2019 and when icebergs are melting even more quickly than forecast, thanks to human activity affecting the quality of our air. 

It is a time of important conclusions and appeals by the United Nations and the IPCC to take significant measures at local and global levels. 

It is a time when television news reports on the RTBF, the VRT and BX1 criticise with justification the serious threats and destruction of the Amazonian forests and when numerous European cities are recommending the development of urban forests. 

It is a time when all of these changes are happening at a breath-taking speed. 

Will Brussels listen? 

It is clear that the preservation of trees, woods and forests, fundamental spaces of fresh air, within the urban milieu, is becoming important in keeping temperatures at levels viable for public health: the health of all citizens, but in particular, for the children and the elderly. 

What is required for the Brussels political authorities to validate citizen opinion and participation during these public inquiries and expressions of opinion that are clearly asking for the entirety of the superb wooded zone on the Reyers RTBF/VRT site to be maintained?

All the Belgian political parties made electoral promises about the climate, about biodiversity, about natural areas in the city, about air quality and about public health. Their current political choice should be consistent with and conform to their appealing words during the electoral campaign.

The Amazon, Central America, Brussels: we must protect all our forests, for the benefit of our entire human species.

Guy Castadot 

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