Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

What's the rainforest got to do with California?

This week on Pacific Swell l figured it was worth it to talk a little about Indonesia and Mattel and Barbie and Greenpeace - because the radio stories we'd had so far were shortened by our very short successful pledge drive.

You know we actually have rainforest in California, right? Temperate ones. Full of Sequoia sempervirens - the coast Redwood - and conifers like Doug Fir and Madrones and Bay Laurels even (the name of the street I grew up on). Redwood National Park, representThe state saves these trees in parkland too - yes, you, Big Basin! If you've ever seen a nurse log in central California - a tree felled for whatever reason, with shoots and leaves and moss and scrub and trees growing on and out of it - you were probably in a rainforest. The kind we protect in California and the US; the kind I was in over Memorial Day in Ben Lomond. 

The rainforests I reported on last week - Indonesian ones - aren't temperate, but they share a lot of the same value as temperate ones - and then some. Indonesia's loaded: they're tropical, and subtropical; lowland, and montane. Rainforests. Pine forests. Peat swamp forests. Are you getting the picture? Forestwise, Indonesia's better than a buffet at Caesar's Palace. Specifically, for Sumatra, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) put it on the World Heritage List - a list of 911 places around the world that have outstanding universal value. 

So here's what environmentalists say matters there: two big things (beyond the usual soil degradation and toxic contamination that matter to greens everywhere).

1. BIODIVERITY: A third of the world's bird species. 90 percent of its invertebrates. The biodiversity varies, place to place - hence we've started to talk about hotspots - but overall, it's pretty rich. In Sumatra, the forests that are at issue in the stories related to Barbie, we could talk about the Sumatran Tiger. (Cause the Balinese and Java Tiger are gone. You can read the WWF's reasons for caring about tigers here.) "Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching across the Sumatran tiger's range mean that unless authorities enforce the law, the Sumatran tiger will shortly follow the fate of its Javan and Balinese relatives." Ouch. 

2. CLIMATE: Guess what's heating up the planet faster than California's tailpipe emissions? Deforestation. Rainforests store carbon. Lots of it. Cutting them down releases carbon. Lots of it. (Here's a pretty good story about the idea of banking carbon in trees in...California...and it's not just the trees. It's the nutrients in the soil that count, too.) Point is, we're most likely releasing carbon faster than ever recorded, and forests are a huge part of that.)

If that doesn't grab you, here's why it grabs me: why KPCC cares enough to report stories on rainforests, carbon, and climate:

BECAUSE CALIFORNIA DOES. California has passed AB 32, the law that requires the state to cut its carbon emissions to 1990 levels within 8 years. Part of how it will do that is by offsetting the amount of carbon stored in forests in California, Indonesia and Brazil against the carbon it emits from cars, refineries, air conditioners, and energy production. California has cut deals about carbon trading in forests - one a couple years ago at the Governor's Global Climate Summit - the details of which are still getting hammered out. 

The point is, two Governors' worth of California politicians have decided to push forward with acting like California's an international player in the carbon world. Your state's doing this. Perhaps you want to know what's going down halfway around the globe?

More about why Indonesian rain forests are at risk tomorrow. 



(Photo: Sumatran Tiger in German Zoo by Joachin S. Muller via Flickr.)