The annual Arbor Week, celebrated in this, the first week of September, was a decidedly auspicious time on the school calendar, marked by a tree-planting ceremony.
Certainly, I underestimated the importance of trees all those decades ago in school. Now, when I think back, having trees surround me was a privilege.
I remember the magic of playing hide-and-seek using a mango tree as the final home-run base, or messily eating ripened mangoes that had just fallen from the trees in the yard.
I remember sitting under those same trees reading, ironically, The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, and then clambering up the cherry trees to pick the sweetest cherries.
Today, I live in a concrete jungle, and I’ve learnt to cherish those very basics of what we were taught in school - that trees are so vital to our well-being by providing oxygen for us to breathe. This is why every year we have to remind ourselves, with Arbor Week, why it’s important to keep planting more trees.
Of the roughly 3.04 trillion trees on Earth, 3.5 billion to 7 billion of these trees are cut down every year.
According to the Department of Forestry, in South Africa only 0.4% of our landmass is covered by natural forest. That’s only 500000hectares, but Durban seems to fare well, with a report by the World Economic Forum in July 2017 stating that Durban and Johannesburg form part of the top 15 cities in the world with the most trees - what a great green pat on the back!
This year’s Tree of the Year is the Breede River Yellowwood, endemic to southern Africa and mainly restricted to the Breede River Valley in the Western Cape.
This year, as we celebrate Arbor Week, let’s never underestimate the importance of a single tree, and let’s hope that the magic they hold will forever sway those around to conserve and protect them.