Arbor Day in transition

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Arbor Day in transition

The author is the head of the social planning teamof the JoongAng Ilbo.

On March 19, the 76th Arbor Day tree planting event was held at a mountain in Ulju County, Ulsan. More than 100 civil servants and citizens got together at the mountain that had been hit by a wildfire and planted 1,500 cherry trees. The Arbor Day event was held 18 days before the observed date on April 5. Some places held their events even earlier. Hadong County, South Gyeongsang held an event on March 18 and Yeonggwang County, South Jeolla, held an event on March 17. Sinan County, South Jeolla, started planting trees on Feb. 24.

Earlier this month, the Korea Forest Service announced that it is reviewing a plan to move Arbor Day to mid-March. It has been discussed a number of times before but never materialized, but since the Korea Forest Service took the initiative, it is more likely to change. Of course, the reason is global warming. Compared to the time when the day was designated in 1946, the temperature on Arbor Day has risen by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius depending on the location. When the temperature goes up by 1 degree Celsius in spring, leaves bud 5 to 7 days earlier and seedlings have to be planted that much earlier.

Skeptics say that Arbor Day doesn’t need to be changed as the day is not a holiday. They are not wrong. In the United States, where Arbor Day originated, more than 20 of the 50 states designate a different date for Arbor Day other than the last Friday of April that the federal government chose.

But changing the date of Arbor Day is meaningful as it would bring renewed attention to forests. Awareness for climate crisis also needs to be reinforced. Catastrophe from global warming and the climate refugee issue is not limited to the polar bears in Alaska or island nations in the South Pacific.

Some trees are already disappearing in Jeju Island, and popular fish pollack are decreasing in the East Sea. Serious alternative plans need to be sought. The government and politicians need to change their direction from destroying forests to expand solar panels or phasing out nuclear reactors that are reconsidered for carbon neutrality in other countries.

The United Nations designated March 21 the International Day of Forests. It is one of the dates the Korea Forest Service is considering. If the date is changed, Korea may be described as “the country that changed the date of Arbor Day due to climate change.” I wonder if the description would say, “Korea has become a model country in carbon reduction” or “It still failed to make changes.”
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