Early one morning in Saigon, I walked in one of the many lovely parks where ancient trees soar into the still pink sky. What was remarkable was the sudden drop in temperature as one entered the green sanctuary. In a heating world, trees can literally save our skin. Later, I saw that Saigon’s extensive suburban areas have been planted with fast growing species in anticipation of climate change.
Research has found that trees, and the shade they provide, can reduce ground temperatures by an astounding 15 degrees at midday. But reductions of 5-10 degrees are more typical - so grab a picnic and hang out with the locals under a tree.
And research hot off the press says tropical forests may be making a much larger contribution to slowing climate change than previously recognized. It estimates that the forests are absorbing 1.4 billion tonnes of human-derived CO2 − a sizeable slice of the total global absorption of 2.5 billion tonnes. Let’s hear it for the trees! If the tropical forests are left undisturbed, the trees should be able to go on reducing the rate of global warming by removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
The urban ‘heat island effect’, as it is called, is behind the global move to increase the area and number of city parks, as buildings, roads and traffic are massive contributors to heating cities and, therefore, premature deaths from heat stroke. Even in a cold county like England, summer heat waves in cities kill significant numbers of people. Crazy huh? Temperatures in Laos are already soaring in summer so we need to take action.
To be modern is to retain and plant trees. Old trees have a greater cooling effect, as do trees with large canopies. Palms, while better than nothing, are only marginally effective.
Research indicates that having trees around buildings and homes eases energy demands, especially during peak hours, by reducing the need for high-cost cooling systems. So trees need to be loved and protected.
This means Laos’ National Protected Areas are vital for reducing the extremes of climate change and are all the more important to visit and support.
People living in the forests may cut down the odd tree, for instance, to build a new room or a house for the newly married, but their use is usually regulated by local customs. Travellers’ support for Laos’ remaining forest areas helps local green movements, particularly with young Lao who know the importance of their forests. They don’t need scientists to tell them how important trees are.
- By Melody Kemp -
In some cultures including Lao, trees are sacred. The Ficus thought to be the type of tree under which Gautama Buddha sat when he achieved enlightenment is regarded as holy, which of course doesn’t stop people from cutting them down. Cutting a tree in some societies involves asking the tree spirit’s permission and might be like destroying a church or a bank, depending on which religion you follow.