On the International Day of Forests, we celebrate and expand awareness about the importance of all kinds of forests. In Papiamento, a forest is called "mondi," an area with no cultivated plants. A forest is an area predominantly with plants without the intervention of humans. Some characteristics of a forest are a large concentration of plants, the height of the plants, their value, and ecological function.
In Aruba, our forests have their importance and benefits. Only if the "mondi" is healthy do they benefit human health. This year's theme is Forests and Health. That is why, the Department of Nature and Environment (DNM) encourages the community to plant. In this case, you are contributing to more plants in Aruba and the world and improving your health.
Consider forests as natural pharmacies. There are more than 50.000 kinds of plants worldwide with medicinal value. In the vicinity of wild forests, small communities use plants as natural medicines. Some pharmaceuticals also derive from plants that grow wild in forests. Some plants are used for treating malaria and or cancer. The periwinkle from Madagascar, a plant similar to the Magdalena family, is used to produce pharmaceutical medicines for treating certain types of cancer. In Aruba, many of our ancestors used local plants as "herbal medicine". These practices have, however, were never scientifically proven to work or be sustainable. Fruits like lime or Barbados cherries are proven to contain high levels of vitamin C, which is beneficial for human health.
Wild forests protect against illnesses. They serve as a natural barrier against the transmission of diseases from animals to humans. The risk for human health increases more due to large-scale deforestation. Over 30% of new diseases after 1960 are attributed to the change in soil use.
The development resulted in non-sustainable deforestation and continues with no reforestation to create balance. Forests help boost mental and physical health. Spending more time in nature increments positive emotions, which helps lower stress levels, blood pressure, depression, fatigue, anxiety, and tension. Trees near urban areas absorb polluting exhausts caused by motor vehicles and industries. The trees serve as small particles filter, like dust, waste, and smoke, and help prevent respiratory diseases in urban areas.
Wild forests are essential in preventing the biggest healthcare threat possible for humanity, climate change. Healthy forests help regulate global temperatures in a level and balanced.
Forests and plants help regulate temperatures and extreme climate, a global healthcare challenge. Extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke and natural disasters that can affect many people simultaneously. Homeowners can, however, help regulate the temperature of their homes by incorporating trees and plants in their home design. An example is not removing trees when preparing the land for construction. Another way is to plant trees around the building to keep the temperatures and air cool. It helps reduce the need for air-conditioning and reduces high electrical bills.
People usually don't stand still about the benefits offered by the forests. For example, when we drink paracetamol with a glass of water or write a book, we never think about the relations they have with forests. People want to develop and build homes and buildings. Investors come from abroad with plans to build more hotels and buildings without considering the laws and bulldoze entire plots without complying with the construction permit. The damage and the misbalance caused are sometimes irreversible. Animals lose their habitats, the soil temperature rises, and the soil degrades and sometimes erodes or floods. Consequently, due to the lack of creativity and respect for the rules and nature, we end up with more buildings and fewer forests.
The DNM urges for a more sustainable policy and sustainable use of resources. It is the key to the fight against climate change. This way, we can contribute to the prosperity and well-being of the current generation and those who follow. Our forests have a crucial role in alleviating poverty and helping reach the sustainable development goals set by the UN for 2030. Forests provide many benefits for healthcare, pure water, carbon capture, and help combat climate change, but also healthcare benefits to save lives.
The DNM urges people to stop deforestation and contribute to healthy forests to benefit our humans.
Let's plant and water plants for healthy growth and abundant fruit and vegetable production.
Happy International Forests Day
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