Address by His Excellency the Most Honourable Patrick L. Allen, ON, CD Governor-General at Launch of National Tree Planting Programme King’s House April 22, 2009

THEME: GROWING TREES FOR A PURPOSE

Does Earth Day really matter?
The question was asked recently “does earth day really matter?”  Earth Day has been observed worldwide since 1970 but nearly forty years later, the earth that God created is groaning in pain because of neglectful stewards and the affliction of deforestation, climate change, global warming and other environmental and ecological maladies. 

The situation has reached and in some instances may have surpassed crisis proportion, as evidenced by rising sea levels, more frequent and intense hurricanes and of course the melting of Continental ice shelves.

In one of his selections, Canadian musician and environment advocate Raffi Cavoukian writes:

“There is a big beautiful planet in the sky. It’s my home. It’s where I live.  You and many others live here too.  It’s our home. It’s where we live.” – Raffi

As stewards of mother earth, we should endeavour to take better care of this planet because it is our home.

Scientists have been warning for many years about the danger facing the planet and its ecosystems.  But even before that Isaiah 24: 5: tells us that:

The earth is also defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the law, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” 

We have been slow to respond to these signals and continue to do damage to the environment.  We emit greenhouse gases unabated, harvest trees without replanting and engaged in inefficient soil management practices.  We ignore the warning signs because we fail to recognize God’s purpose for mankind in relation to the environment. 

Earth day therefore is an opportunity for us to recommit ourselves and demonstrate that we understand the importance of restoring the earth as best as possible to its pristine glory.

Growing trees for a purpose
One of the ways to achieve this is to recommit and demonstrate that commitment to creating a sustainable environment by planting trees.  This year’s theme, “Growing Trees for a Purpose,” will see the Jamaica Tree Growers Association embarking on an islandwide national tree growing programme. 

The aim is to commence the rehabilitation of approximately 70,000 hectares of land that are ideal for reforestation.  Another 60,000 hectares of agricultural lands which lie idle or under utilized are also ideal for the growing of hardwood and fruit trees for commercial use and domestic consumption. 

The national tree planting programme must encourage Jamaicans to plant trees in order to reduce deforestation, soil erosion and promote the creation of a balanced agro-forestry system.   Reforestation also restores the natural habitat of birds and is a source of food for these and other animal and plant species.

So this initiative is consistent with the Divine command where the Jews were instructed to plant trees for food and eat of the increase of the Lord.

The multifaceted approach which you are adopting in recognition of the potential ecological and economic benefits to Jamaica comes at a time of economic uncertainty which would also help the country develop self-sufficiency in food production.  This would not only reduce our dependence of imports but also ensure that we eat what we grow. And that is, foods that will add proper nutrients to the body and prevent illnesses that are costly to treat. 

What is envisioned ladies and gentlemen is the potential for a consistent supply of fruits, foods and vegetables for domestic consumption and agro-processing.  Of course this can only be achieved if consumers change their mindset about the quality and value of locally produced foods.  We have to do a total cultural change and get back to eating what we grow. It is now known that our local sweet potato can almost give us a complete meal because of its nutritional value. 

There is also tremendous potential for the export market from the tree planting programme.  Some years ago consumers were advised to brace themselves for higher prices for juices as a slump in fruit production in the United States had resulted in a significant shortfall in the availability of fruit juice concentrate.

I believe that with this tree growing project we could reverse the trend and be selling to our suppliers as well as extend our markets farther afield.

I welcome this tree growing project and recommend that you involve the young people at every level.  They need to develop an appreciation for the environment from an early age.  In this way we are instilling some of the core values of the society where nature is respected and regarded as an expression of the glory of God. 

Conclusion
We all need to become strong supporters of environmental protection. The Jamaica Tree Growers Association cannot do it alone.  This project is another example of Jamaicans using ‘what is right’ to fix what is wrong with the country.  I believe we should all support it.

It requires the commitment of everyone because the earth belongs to all of us.  The earth’s sustainability and that of future generations depends upon on how we treat it today. 

Why should you care?  Why should anyone care?  We should care because the whole creation is waiting and groaning to be delivered from the wanton abuse and neglect.  Let us live in harmony with nature and demonstrate that yes the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. 

It therefore gives me great pleasure to officially launch the national tree growing programme.  I trust that as a result of our commitment we will have a healthier and better environment.