In this blog, Catherine talks about her passion for ensuring the future of our planet. She describes eloquently how her own health awakened her to not only the beauty of trees, but their health benefits, nutrition and, ultimately, their role in the world.

Photo credits: Malama Mushitu

Nature’s love towards humanity is unconditional. It stretches from the natural resources such as water that make living possible, to the humble yet life sustaining lungs of the earth: trees and plants. Although all the components of the ecosystem are interdependent and equally important, I personally look to my green fellas as the heroes of each day. My conclusion stems from a lot of premises, but for today, I will present the story of a little girl whose entire childhood was oxygen deprived through breathing difficulties because of her asthma attacks.

Agogo could no longer help; all hope was lost. Miraculously, the herbs work; a simple remedy of boiled roots and leaves of muzwimbi laswi liberates her again, giving her a renewed chance of life on Earth. It seemed impossible to her siblings, that this potion, recommended by their traditional ndokotala, would bring their little sister back to life, saving her from the asthma attack, which was assaulting her lungs, depriving her of oxygen. For the little girl, this incident has catapulted Mother Nature into her life.

With the passing of years, the little girl’s passion for the natural environment sprouts. She discovers profound pleasure in letting her mind wander into the world of different interactions with the ecosystem, analysing how trees and plants help to sustain life on Earth. But is this all she wants – traveling through time and space into her new-found friends’ worlds, watching them as they grow greener and bigger by the day, balancing the cycles of the biosphere and making it rain? No, she discovers that she can do more with this interest by learning how the natural environment can help solve some of the challenges being faced by the human populations. But asthma strikes again. The nightmares start. Breathing difficulties now manifest themselves in her dreams: the Earth lacks oxygen, the countryside is bare without trees, dry without water and people are being burnt by the sun’s excessive heat.

Every country is already experiencing the devastating effects of deforestation and climate change. Worse still, rain cycles have become less predictable, leading to increased poverty in some of the already poorest parts of the world, including Zambia……Our forests are crying for help; they are dying.

I am the little girl in the story, and all my experiences as a child and nightmares as an adult have shown me that people will start suffering, fighting for breath and life if we continue cutting down trees and forests. Every country is already experiencing the devastating effects of deforestation and climate change. Worse still, rain cycles have become less predictable, leading to increased poverty in some of the already poorest parts of the world, including Zambia.

It hurts me to discover that our green world is under threat. According to the World Bank, since 1990, the planet has lost 1.3 million square kilometers of tree cover – an area twice the size of Zambia. In my country alone, deforestation rates are alarming, approximately 3000 square kilometers – the size of Zambia’s Bangweulu Lake – of forest cover lost per year, for making fires for cooking, charcoal production, and agricultural expansion.

Where have all the trees gone?
Desertification and cutting trees down for firewood leave the landscape barren

Our forests are crying for help; they are dying. Franklin D. Roosevelt quotes: “A nation that destroys its soils, destroys itself.” Forests and trees are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving life to our people. Our ancestors might have not been replacing the trees they cut in their time, but should we be like them and remain ignorant of reality when we know the significance of trees to the environment? Instead, we can be the heroes of our future generations by fighting against deforestation. With the scarce resources available to me, I planted several mango, guava and citrus trees at home and school. Even now, I continue advocating for trees in my community through the small environmental WhatsApp campaign I run. I might have taken the first step and galvanized my community, but I also want to help people understand that responsibility rests with them, my country, and the world to fight against deforestation, climate change and global warming. Future generations depend on the actions we take today. We, therefore, urgently need to replant, undertake serious interventions in implementing policies to reduce greenhouse emissions and conserve natural forests and trees.

But there is more to conserving our forests and trees than just combating climate change. It is about hope: hope that little girls will live on an oxygen-loaded green planet without the worry of breathing. It is about me feeling safe, even as I have those terrible nightmares about future Earth, knowing I have prepared it for future generations, restoring its rich biodiversity and balanced ecosystems, where all organisms can breathe freely, thrive and live life to the fullest.

Planting for new life
Replanting at Our Moon

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