"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

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Saturday, 30 October 2010

Eucalyptus trees, Kenya and Madeira - ecosustainability

Did you know that the Eucalyptus tree needs vast quantities of water to survive and grow? Perhaps I should have known, linking it to the phenomenal growth these trees are capable of. They grow fast, and very tall. They can be as bad in that respect as “quick growing conifers,” the curse of the British suburban garden, in fact possibly worse. Last year in Madeira I saw these trees and they were simply huge – it is after all a very lush and fertile island. The locals were complaining that they are taking over the landscape - they are not trees native to that island. They are in fact an exotic tree, native to Australia.

Because the eucalyptus needs so much water, it was used in wet marshland areas to drain them for agriculture. The tree does the job very well. The trouble is, the trees carry on growing when they have done the job, and what is more they multiply.
And all this has worrying implications for our global eco-sustainability.

Reading more of Wangari Maathai’s Replenishing the Earth, reviewed elsewhere, I learnt that we British apparently introduced the tree to Kenya, originally for timber production, because they grow so fast. To maintain that growth rate they would be mainly planted along riverbeds, and wetlands. But there was an unwelcome impact. There are now vast tracts of land in Kenya that are too dry, dusty, and barren, and there are nearby streams and rivers that have dried to a trickle, and the eucalyptus is at least partly to blame. So much so that during a recent drought the environmental minister called for these trees in all river areas to be removed. Wangari herself has preached about this in church and called for her congregation to dig these trees up on their lands and replace them with indigenous trees wherever possible.

It may well be that Madeira needs to review its eco-sustainability policies, if it does not already have this on board?

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