On 21 March, a variety of events honour and promote awareness of the value of forests, as well as trees outside of forests, for the sake of present and future generations. Every year, countries are urged to arrange local, national, and international activities involving forests and trees, such as tree-planting programmes.
Sanjive Mahandru, Birmingham Friends of the Earth
Our podcast episode this week focuses on the International Day of Forests and on the importance of trees to our lives. We spoke to Sanjive Mahandru, who gave us an insight into how something as simple as using a bike instead of a car can make a big statement. Mahandru is a volunteer at the Birmingham Friends of the Earth campaign, which protests environmental issues in Birmingham. After ten years of volunteering, the estate agent thinks the biggest polluters in Birmingham are assets that are council owned. He says the council doesn’t follow the same agenda as campaigners:
“A lot of councils talk about it, but don’t actively take action. They could do things overnight if they wanted to, but they don’t.”
The 35-year-old Birmingham campaign uses social media, protests, and meetings with councillors to combat air pollution, which sees 28,000 to 36,000 deaths a year in the UK attributed to long-term exposure.
“I think if everybody did a little bit on their doorstep, it would make a difference. You’ve got to be active with it”, he told us.
Peter Gilbert, Sheffield Green Party
The team also spoke with Peter Gilbert, who is the Green Party candidate for Eccleshall Ward in Sheffield. The social care worker was on the frontline of the protests stopping Sheffield Council demolishing street trees.
Peter told Bylines that Sheffield is sometimes known for having the highest number of trees per capita and being “the greenest city in Europe”. However, since the council signed a contract with Amey to manage Sheffield’s highways, half of the street’s trees were set to be cut down in a 25-year period (starting 2012).
“The protestors and residents have grown up with these beautiful trees, and yet they’re being chopped down. Why?”
This led to local protests that drew national attention, with several protesters being arrested. It finally resulted in the council removing the tree-cutting target from the contract.
Peter believes that especially during this climate emergency, people can be doing more to reduce their climate footprint to protect and preserve nature. This can include planting wildflowers, leaving your garden uncut to provide habitats for inspects, and joining local environmental groups.
“Wherever you can, just create a space for nature.”