By Gena Gibbs
Bahamas Information Services
MINISTER of the Environment Romauld Ferreira addressed hundreds of students during the morning assembly at CI Gibson Senior High School on Monday to talk to them about the importance of forestry, which supports life on the planet.
“Youth, like you, enjoying adolescence and teenage years should capitalise on every opportunity to become a part of nature. When we speak about nature here, we are essentially talking about forests and trees,” said Mr Ferreira.
“We have mangrove, coppice and pine forests. Forests and trees are the lungs of the Earth. They help us balance the amount of vital oxygen and remove harmful carbon dioxide from the air. Trees also regulate humidity in the air and cool down the planet.”
Mr Ferreira explained to the assembly that trees provide us with everyday support we take for granted, such as food, shelter, shade and jobs to help support us and our families. He also added we use the wood from trees to make products, such as furniture and more importantly homes.
“Our trees in The Bahamas, particularly our pine trees are high quality wood, resistant to termites and very durable. We cannot forget the importance of forests to climate change mitigation and how carbon is stored in the ground,” said Mr Ferreira.
“Forests are home to 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial plants, animals and insects. They provide us with water that is also vital to life on the Earth because without water we could not survive. Underneath the pine trees on islands like Abaco, Andros, Grand Bahama, and New Providence, you will find fresh water.”
Mr Ferreira also pointed out to the students that the straw they see in the Straw Market comes from the palms within our forests, which is key to generating our local economy. He urged the importance of protecting mangroves, as they are our first line of defence on our coastlines against erosion and storms, such as hurricanes, as well as serving as nurseries for baby fish.
“Mangroves even filter and clean our water. You will remember that my ministry is on a mission to promote the protection of trees and forests. Each year in March, we celebrate Forestry Awareness Week and the 21st of March is celebrated globally as World Forestry Day/International Day of Forests. This day is designed to educate the public and raise awareness of the significant benefits provided by trees,” said Mr Ferreira.
“We have a new initiative called School 365 Programme; we will be visiting schools on the Pine Islands and speaking to young people like you to help you better understand why trees are so special and why they deserve our protection. I also want you to encourage your family and friends to help my Forestry Unit in its pledge to plant 10,000 trees before the end of 2017.”
Mr Ferreira believes in encouraging the next generation of environmentalists and land stewards to remind everyone around them, including their parents, to not cut down all the trees in the yard. He said the ones close to the house should be removed to not cause damage to the house during the storm, but some trees should left to keep the house cool to reduce the need for using air conditioning during the summer, or even freshening the air.
The Forestry Unit has two special competitions they are promoting to schools each March.
“You can snap a photo of yourself posing with a native or traditional tree and then tell us why you selected that tree. The final step is that you will post the photo and brief explanation to our Bahamas Forestry Facebook Page to win a prize,” said Mr Ferreira.
“Secondly, we want you to participate in our Junior Minister of the Environment Competition, which starts now. My ministry has left a flyer with instructions with your principal to distribute to you. I am anxiously looking forward to receiving your submissions.”