There are 6 billion, 800 thousand people in the world.
In the few seconds it just took for you to read the sentence above t the world’s population increased by 15 more people.
There are a few races of people, but even with all these people there is only one species – that is Homo Sapien.
Homo Sapien is Latin. It means “wise man” or “knowing man.”
Are we – the Homo Sapiens of this world – truly “wise or knowing men and women?”
Let’s come back to that question in a few minutes.
But before we do that, let’s move on to another living thing. Let’s have a look at trees.
How many trees do you think there are in the world?
You might say – “that’s a really tough question – how in the world can anyone count how many trees there are in the world?”
Well, thanks to NASA, we can actually have a pretty good idea of how many trees we have here on planet Earth.
Trees reflect sunshine in very particular patterns. This makes it possible for NASA’s satellites to map and count strips of land where trees are growing. Biologists can then sample those places — forests, suburbs, city parks, even city streets — assume a tree density, multiply by acre or hectare, and calculate the number of trees.
In 2005 the scientists estimated that there are over 400 billion trees in the world.
Ecology professor Nalini Nadkarni of The Evergreen State College in Washington ran the numbers and calculated that in 2005 that worked out to be about 61 trees per person.
Today, assuming about the same number of trees, the number works out to be just over 58 trees per person.
Fifty-eight trees. Sounds like a lot of trees doesn’t it!
But, think about how we use trees, or the products that trees produce for us, and we have to wonder, is it really a lot of trees per person?
What do we use trees for?
Well, there is the obvious use of burning logs in a woodstove to heat a home in winter, or making the paper we use in our homes and offices every day, but when Professor Nadkami had her graduate students write down a list of things made from trees she got a list that almost never stops:
China uses over 45 billion – or about 45 per person. The whole world uses over 100 billion pairs per year.
So Japan, with roughly 1.7% of the world’s population is using about 25% of the disposable chopsticks in the world.
Actually, other than calculating the
wood used in chopsticks, it is pretty much impossible to figure out just how
much in total of the woody stuff is used every year by we Homo Sapiens.
It all sounds like a pretty sad story, doesn’t it? All of us humans cutting down all of those trees for our own selfish needs?
Not really! After all, trees are not like oil. They are renewable. If you think you are using more than your annual allotment of 58 trees - and if you are using wari-bashi you most likely are – there’s an easy solution. Plant more trees! Get yourself a shovel, and a few seeds or seedling trees, dig a few holes, paint your thumb green, and plant a few trees.
The Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore said:
Trees are the earth's endless effort
To speak to the listening heaven.
So now, back to my earlier question; are we humans truly “wise and knowing men and women”?
Or, should we best listen to the words of John Muir, the Scottish born American naturalist who is well known for advocating preservation of the wilderness in the United States when he said, “God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.”