Saturday, September 3, 2011

Trading Music For Trees

Just last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited along to photograph an event at CarriageWorks called MUSICFORTREES - a non-profit initiative run by local sustainability advocates to empower people to change the world with small actions. The graceful artists who in a few short hours managed to raise enough funds to plant 17,290 trees included: DJ Tom with his ultra-cool old-school gramophone, Andy Golledge (the amusing man with so much beard it got caught in his harmonica), John Dixon, Jay Cooper, gorgeous duo Elodie Sablier and Eleanor Maurri of Les Deux Violettes, and the incredibly stark and alluring Jordan Leser.

MUSICFORTREES is part of the United Nations Environment Programme Plant For The Planet: The Billion Tree Campaign and works in conjunction with Trees For The Future - a group that has been reforesting degraded land, and improving biodiversity and sustainability around the globe since 1989. It's incredibly humbling to be asked to work with some seriously talented people, designers and musicians alike. I'm still feeling slight disbelief a week later. It was only two years ago that I got my hands on a DSLR, much less learn how to use the darn thing. Amazing.. 

I've spent the last fortnight slowly making my way through a book called 2011 State of the world: Innovations that nourish the planet by The Worldwatch Institute and I've learned that famine and poverty in developing nations are not caused by a lack of food as widely believed, but rather, through gross mismanagement of resources and a turbid market. Food aid unfortunately is a bit like slapping a used bandaid on a broken leg and doesn't do much to address the root of the problem besides sustaining poverty-stricken people for another day. An influx of food aid from international sources can actually cause detriment to market pricing and devalue local produce, meaning poorer farmers have little incentive to grow more food. Genetically modified seeds and high-input monoculture are too expensive for African farmers to sustain, and synthetic chemical fertiliser and pesticide use only assists in accelerating soil degradation and water pollution. Fuel for cooking and heating is produced through the incineration of biomass including wood, animal dung, agricultural waste, etc. Not only does burning biomass result in smoke inhalation (the largest cause of death in children under 5 in developing countries), but it also limits the amount of organic matter available to return to the fields to maintain soil fertility .

To better the world and advance food security to include the 1 billion starving people in poorer nations requires a paradigm shift in political responsibility, clean energy production and a movement towards agroecological farming. Solar cookers allow women to potentially triple their income whilst drastically cutting back on the amount of time spent collecting firewood. A lower demand for fuel also equates to more organic matter that can be incorporated back into the soil, reducing the need for chemical input and increasing the natural suppression of disease through composting.

Trees play an almighty part in food security as well, and not just in developing nations like Africa. They provide shade and reduce water loss, assist in preventing rising groundwater and salinity (a massive problem in agriculture around the globe), shed leaves which add organic matter to soil, sequester atmospheric carbon, increase precipitation, reduce temperature, and can also provide an additional source of food; all of which are incredibly important if increased sustainability of agriculture and food security are to be pursued. 

MUSICFORTREES holds a number of charity gigs a year. Make sure you check out their facebook page to stay updated on upcoming music-filled afternoons at CarriageWorks! :)

 See more photos of the last MUSICFORTREES event...

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