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Let us broaden our values, reconsider clear-cut logging


 Erick Okwara uses a powersaw  to cut a tree in a local forest within Busia County on August 29, 2021. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Only when money is exchanged for products and services, is the transaction recognised as having economic worth in the value system inherent in the sort of economics our society has chosen.

The tree only acquires value when it enters our economy by generating revenue. As an Environmentalist, I am not in support of this statement.

My perspective: That one tree was a tiny element of a community of species that had evolved over thousands of years. That community is made up of trees, a minuscule percentage of the forest’s life forms.

Tens of thousands of kinds of microorganisms-viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa-as well as bigger nematodes, worms, insects, and mites-make up the soil.

Plants and animals cover the forest floor, lichens and mosses cover rocks and decaying wood, and snags and fallen logs provide food and shelter to numerous species.

This is the community we recognise as a forest, complicated and interconnected beyond explanation, held together by the air, water, and sunlight that pervades it.

Before Humans decide the worth of a tree, consider what it does.

That tree, hundreds of years old, has absorbed carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the air, thereby contributing to life’s climate engine, and releases oxygen as a by-product of photosynthesis (not a bad by-product for all animals, including us, who rely entirely on oxygen for survival).

The energy of photons collected by the tree’s leaves is converted into sugar molecules, which, like fossil fuels, store that energy to be released in controlled metabolic reactions.

Even in the heaviest rains, the tree’s roots cling to the soil, preventing erosion while siphoning massive amounts of water up into the canopy, where it is released through transpiration, so improving weather.

The tree provides a home for various forms of life, from lichens and fungus to insects, birds, and animals, from its roots to the summits of its branches.

All of these “natural services” performed by that standing tree affect human health and survival but are ignored by our economy.

It is long past time for us to broaden our horizons and values beyond the extremely narrow perspective of conventional economics.

The writer is an environmentalist based in Nairobi

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