Strong Communities Make a Better World
Every community has an opportunity to address local issues that are contributing to climate change. The challenge is identifying the problem and then applying a solution. When members of a community come together great progress can be made to make changes to alleviate global warming. It all starts at your doorstep.
The message from Earth Day 2021 was “Restore Our Earth”. Deforestation is destroying the balance that is needed to keep our environment healthy. What better way to restore our earth than to restore our forests?
One Community at a Time
In our community we have two related issues. Agricultural smoke and deforestation. Agricultural smoke fills our skies, our lungs, and feeds global warming for everyone.
Our forests have disappeared. Our mountainsides have been burnt out and stripped, and are primarily used for corn, the only crop the land will support.
The widespread loss of natural forest in Northern Thailand has a negative environmental impact on our community.
Huge areas of forests have been cleared to make room for growing corn. Biodiversity has suffered as animal and bird habitats are destroyed.
Soils have become depleted. They absorb less and less rainwater, as forest trees that once allowed water to penetrate the soil are removed. Corn is planted thinly and – unlike the trees it replaces – provides no protection for the soil, which becomes brick hard when wetted and sun dried.
This has destroyed watersheds, as the rainwater that once soaked into the ground now runs off rapidly, eroding fields and causing flooding downstream in the Center and South of Thailand.
This year we have added a new project to our Stop the Smoke campaign. We are working with farmers whose farmlands climb the mountainside and now grow corn.
We have begun a reforestation project to bring back our natural forests and restore the ecological balance needed for a healthy environment.
Our first step is to replenish the health of the soil. We are adding tons of biochar and manure to create fertile ground for our trees to grow and flourish.
Once the soil is prepared we will begin planting native trees to begin the restoration.
Agroforestry is a more environmentally-friendly system, in which crops are interplanted with trees and shrubs. Some of these trees grow fruits or nuts that can be harvested. Others grow for many years, and can later be harvested for timber. And some trees aren’t grown for harvesting, but rather for the many other important benefits they provide: improving soil quality, preserving biodiversity, and creating shade and protection for more delicate crops.
In the shade of these trees, farmers can plant cash crops such as coffee, cacao, rattan, tea, Thai black pepper and many others. They can grow local fruits that have disappeared from local markets, and plant family vegetable gardens around the perimeter that provide food year round and excess to sell while waiting for the perennials to yield.
Bangkok Benefits From Northern Reforestation Project
Our neighbors to the south will benefit from our Agroforestry project as well.
Bangkok has struggled for years with an increasing flooding problem. The local system was designed to handle water drainage from localized flooding caused from heavy rainfall. What they are not prepared for is the massive amount of water run-off from the mountains in the north, where deforestation has destroyed the watershed,
Tackling the Smoke
Our first approach to the problem was to encourage the local farmers to stop burning their crop waste in open fields by providing them a better option. We showed farmers how easy it is to turn the crop waste into a viable product that would provide additional income. Biochar.
The local farming community is focused mainly on growing corn for stockfeed. Corn does not require as much work as other crops, will grow virtually anywhere, and provides a guaranteed meager income for the poorest families.
Corn, however, is a wasteful product, leaving behind huge amounts of waste once it has been harvested for the kernels.
Setting up biochar ovens to process the corn cobs has been a very successful venture. Tons and tons of biochar has been made over the years.
The biochar is then turned into either soil amendment to improve farmland soils, used for improving the health of livestock, or made into briquettes for cooking, replacing smoky cooking fuels in homes.
We are working in the Mae Chaem area in Northern Thailand. Below is a time lapse of the past 36 years of our local area. You can see how much forest has disappeared. Time for us to start taking care of our environment and restore our forests!
Urban Life – What Can You Do?
Our problems out in the farm lands are very easy to identify. Agricultural smoke is one of the major contributors to global warming all around the world. But what about city life?
Vehicle emissions are probably one of the biggest contributors to global warming for city dwellers. We are working our way towards a cleaner form of transportation, investing in clean alternative energy, but we are far from where we need to be. WE NEED TO BE REDUCING EMISSIONS NOW!
There are a few steps you can take to reduce the amount of emissions your community is contributing to global warming. If your community is not currently participating in any of these measures you can take action and help bring about changes!
Getting stuck in traffic can be a real drag, not just on your patience but on increased emissions from all the cars idling and waiting their turn to go.
Does your city have a notorious traffic jam area? What can be done to increase the flow of traffic so there is no traffic jam?
Surprisingly parking comes in second for emission impact. While it may be convenient to drive your car to your destination, finding a place to park the car is not always so easy. How often do you need to search around looking for an empty parking space? Many cities are adopting a Smart Parking
Restricting Car Access
Some cities prefer to block off vehicle traffic to pedestrian traffic in designated areas. Lowering emissions in these walking areas is not just good for the environment, but healthier for the people walking there too! Does you town have an area that can be turned into “Pedestrian Only” traffic?
Cycling and Walking
It is important to ensure that cycling and walking are both safe and convenient means of transport. Does your city promote cycling as a means of getting around the city? Do you have bike paths/designated lanes?
Extensive bike-parking facilities, and bike-sharing systems are also an effective way to encourage more ‘bike- and-ride’ participation.
What type of public transportation does your community provide? Is it well planned and utilized? Does it connect with parking areas where people can leave their cars while using public transportation within the busy city? Depending on the needs of your city, careful planning and reliable service can go a long way in alleviating inner city traffic.
So how many people can you cram into your car? All joking aside, ride sharing is a great way to reduce single passenger traffic. If you work in the city, does you employer offer a ride share program for employees? Perhaps you can get one started. Make it a community based program, your neighbor working next door to you may be wiling to participate!
You Are Not Alone, We Are In This Together!
While all communities face their own unique problems, solutions can apply across the board to help reduce automobile emissions within our cities. What problems does your community have, and what are your solutions? Sharing ideas can help others facing similar challenges. We are all in this together, and helping one another helps everyone. We would love to hear from you. Submit your story!
Our Biochar program and reforestation project are local solutions to our local problems, but we share with other communities facing the same type of problems and invite them to apply the solutions we have found to work.