”Each generation of humanity takes the earth as trustees …
We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed” – Sterling Morton –
South Africa celebrates Arbor Week annually in the first week of September.
National Arbor Week is an opportune time to call on all of us to plant indigenous trees as a practical and symbolic gesture of sustainable environmental management.
Our first Arbor Day in 1983 captured the imagination of people who recognized the need for raising awareness of the value of trees in our society since trees play such a vital role in the health and well-being of our communities – as sources of building material, food, medicine, and simple scenic beauty.
Collective enthusiasm for the importance of this day inspired government to extend the celebration to National Arbor Week in 1999. The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), as the custodian of forestry in South Africa, is responsible for the campaign.
September is also heritage month and as we celebrate Arbor Week, the department also focuses on the country’s champion trees which include some of the oldest, largest and culturally significant trees.
Arbor Day originated in 1872 in the United States where Sterling Morton, a newcomer to the treeless plains of Nebraska, was a keen proponent of the beauty and benefit of trees.
He persuaded the local agricultural board to set aside a day for planting trees and through his position as editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper, encouraged participation in the event by publishing articles on the value of trees for soil protection, fruit, shade and building.
Known as Arbor Lodge, Morton’s home was a testament to his love for trees and so inspired the name of the holiday. Within two decades Arbor Day was celebrated in every US State and territory and eventually spread around the world.
The tradition continues annually, and in Morton’s words …
Patriotism is the intelligent appreciation that one’s own welfare is inseparably connected with the general welfare and that to prosper personally one must intelligently do his utmost to maintain the general prosperity.
The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful, and the ennobling in man, and for one, I wish to see it become universal.