Greenery in Guyana

EARTH’S PRECIOUS FORESTS IN SERVICE TO HUMANITY

One of the main culprits of the planet’s disastrous climate today is the excess of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air. The relatively new human technology of carbon capture and storage is far from a ‘silver bullet’ to this existential problem. Fortunately, the Creator has in place the natural system of forests, which is the world’s best carbon capture system. Forested areas and trees are an integral part of the divine natural system to maintain the remarkable delicate balance of atmospheric CO2 and oxygen. Progress toward mitigating the current global climate crisis will require countries to prioritize the preservation of their forests.

Guyana’s Win-Win Situation

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Among the countries taking a keen interest in the role of its forests in sequestering carbon is Guyana. In forceful words, the president of Guyana, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali refuted the charge of carbon pollution leveled against his country, now that it is an oil and gas producing nation. In a recent interview with a BBC news journalist, the president alluded to its forest’s crucial role in CO2 removal, leading to net zero CO2 emission. In the discussion, the president responded, “Guess what? We have the lowest deforestation rate in the world. And guess what? Even with our greatest exploration of the oil and gas resource we have now, we will still be, net zero. Guyana will still be net zero with all our exploration”.1

Guyana is one of 8 ‘carbon sink’ countries which have achieved net zero emissions so far, and many others have pledged to reach a target date. This milestone occurs when more carbon per year is absorbed from the atmosphere than is released.2 Attaining net zero on a universal scale is a central part of the efforts to prevent global warming exceeding the 1.50C climate limit. In 2021 the government announced that the country is a net-zero carbon emitter, thanks to its extensive Amazon Rainforest.3

Overall, the dense forests of this tropical South American and Caribbean country make up about 91% of its landmass, more so than any nation except Suriname. With a population of about 800,000, CO2 emission is slightly less than the average worldwide. As an oil producer, the country’s emissions will grow steadily, the expectation is that its sizeable forest will adequately compensate for any gain to maintain its carbon status quo. The developing nation’s low carbon strategy seeks a win-win situation of economic development coupled with protection of its forest resources.4

In the United States, our extensive forests are also playing a crucial role in carbon storage. “According to the US Forest Service, America’s forests sequester over 800 million tons of carbon a year, which is roughly 12% of the US annual emissions…”5 In terms of decarbonizing the economy, the United States has set a goal of achieving net-zero economy-wide emissions by no later than 2050.6

The Carbon Cycle – A Divine Blessing

Forests cover nearly a third of the Earth’s land surface, and healthy forests are therefore huge reservoirs for the absorption and storage of carbon. The wood of trees is a superb carbon sink – one that absorbs more CO2 than it releases- in that it holds a large amount of carbon, lasts a relatively long time, and is slow in decomposing. Notably, the forest soil can also retain carbon. Clearly, forests are intrinsic to Earth and the existence of life. Everything on this planet, which includes the forests, has been created for man. This profound notion is taken from the Quranic statement, “He has created all that is in the Earth for you”.7

The process of photosynthesis, whereby the leaves take in CO2 from the air, is part of the natural divine system created to sustain life.  Plants use the carbon to synthesize sugar, a carbon compound, which is then used to make stems, branches, and roots. With the death and decay of plants and animals that consume the plants, in the process of decomposition by decomposers, carbon is returned to the atmosphere as CO2. This is an integral part of the ‘carbon cycle’. Through this and other “nutrient cycles”, carbon and other vital elements become continuously available.

These cycles, also referred to as ‘biogeochemical’, were not discovered until the last few hundred years or so. A possible reference to this transition between the living and non-living, however, can be seen in the Quranic verse, “Verily! It is Allah Who causes the seed grain and the fruit stone (like date­stone, etc.) to split and sprout. He brings forth the living from the dead, and it is He Who brings forth the dead from the living. Such is Allah, then how are you deluded away from the truth?”8 The inter-relationship of the biotic and abiotic system on Earth is under divine control. As we are repeatedly told in the Quran, “Allah has control over everything”.

Forests – The Lungs of The Planet

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There is much more to the importance of forests other than the sequestration of CO2. Indeed, they perform many critical roles for the global environment. Not least amongst them is the oxygen we breathe. Forests and trees produce about 28% of the world’s oxygen, and the rest comes from plant life in the oceans. A single large oak tree, generally per day, is estimated to provide nearly half the oxygen amount of what the average person needs in a day.9 It therefore comes as no surprise that forests are sometimes called the ‘lungs of the planet’. Appreciation of trees goes all the way back to the Sunnah. The Prophet Muhammad (pboh) encouraged the planting of a tree by saying, “Even if the resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, let him plant it.”10 

Oxygen and CO2 are maintained in a balanced circulation, by the processes of gas exchange in plants, animals and humans. A reference to this balance can be derived from the Quran in the following verse, “As for the earth, We spread it out and placed upon it firm mountains and caused everything to grow there in perfect balance.”11 

The Imperative to Maintain the Natural Balance

In the natural world we see the critical interdependence and interconnection of plants and animals. Unfortunately, humans have interfered with the natural balance. For example, deforestation – the action of clearing a wide area of trees – releases a significant amount of the stored carbon into the atmosphere, and simultaneously reduces part of nature’s vast carbon sink for the capture of CO2.

Unsound environmental practices are not to be taken lightly. As deforestation and runaway CO2 emissions indicate, their occurrence in one part of the globe can have a negative impact in other parts. Awareness of environmental problems and their solutions is crucial to bringing about change. There are some of us who “can’t see the forests for the trees”. 

However, the collective efforts of humanity toward neutralizing and limiting carbon emissions demonstrate the ability of nations to tackle common environmental concerns. Of course, it is not all a rosy picture. Criticisms and accusations of deception have been part of the discourse. Nevertheless, it is imperative to ‘stay the course’ and follow sound environmental practices that preserve God’s natural creation.  

References

  1. BBC HARDtalk (@BBCHARDtalk) March 29, 2024
  2. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/12/these-countries-achieved-net-zero-emissions/#:~:text=Guyana,cut%20in%20emissions%20by%202030.
  3. How these eight countries have already achieved net-zero emissions (thenationalnews.com)
  4. Guyana – Rainforest Foundation US
  5. How Forests Store Carbon (psu.edu)
  6. The Long-Term Strategy of the United States, Pathways to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050 (whitehouse.gov)
  7. Quran, 2:29
  8. Quran, 6:95 quoted in Surah Al An’aam (6:95) – Food Cycle, Splitting of Seed and Grain | The Miraculous Quran
  9. How Much Oxygen Does A Tree Produce? – One Tree Planted
  10. Hadith (saying of Muhammad (peace be on him – pboh) source: Musnad Ahmad 12902
  11. Quran, 15:19

S. Imtiaz Zaman

S. Imtiaz Zaman, B.Sc., M.A., Dip. Ed. is a retired NYC public high school science teacher with 30 years of service. His expertise is in Earth Science, Biology, and AP Environmental Science. He also holds an educational Diploma in Administration and Supervision. Before migrating from Guyana, he served as an Environmental Officer in a government agency, and taught in the public high school. Bro Imtiaz has long been involved with the work of the local Muslim community in Georgetown, Guyana and New York. Part of his contribution included the role of a weekend Islamic school teacher. Currently he participates in the leadership of the localized NYC Muslim community.

S. Imtiaz Zaman

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