Thinking Over the Significance of the Arbor Day

DATE : 2009-04-03

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We are celebrating the 64th Arbor Day on April 5. There are arguments that suggest the Arbor Day needs to be celebrated earlier considering the increase in the average temperature caused by global warming which in turn affect the time of flowering. It is a logical argument and may be practical to do so if trees are planted only on or after the Arbor Day. However, the best time for planting and the commemoration day should be considered independently of one another. The Arbor Day is a day designated by a presidential decree (Regulations on Various Commemoration Day) on which concerned agencies host commemorative events.

When designating commemoration days, each day is chosen based on the significance of the particulate date. This also applies for Arbor Day as well. The Arbor Day in Korea was designated on April 3 under the Japanese regime in 1911 however it was re-designated to April 5 in 1946 shortly after the independence. The date April 5 actually has historical, cultural and traditional significance. Historically, it was the day when the Shilla Dynasty successfully protected the nation from the Tang Dynasty and led to unification. It is also the day when King Seongjong of Chosun Dynasty held the Royal Plowing Feast and grew mulberry trees, and in 1910, King Soonjong held the actual tree planting during the Royal Plowing Feast on this day. On the other hand, on the cultural and traditional aspects, this day very often coincides with “cheongmyung" and "hansik", where according the 24 terms of the year based on the eastern calendar, “cheongmyung" is the day marking the beginning of the farming cycle and "hansik" is the day for tending ancestors'' graves. The Arbor Day was designated on April 5 based on both symbolic and historical grounds. Therefore, Korea Forest Service hosts tree planting ceremonies to celebrate and commemorate the significance of this day.

Then, when is the best time for tree planting? Technically for the plant''s nature, it is best when the soil is not frozen and the sap stops to flow. This is why plants are best to plant in spring and fall. So it is true to say that the best time for planting really depends each region. Korea Forest Service designated tree planting season from March 1 through April 30 and advises each region to select the best time for them. This is because trees can be planted as early as in the first week of March in the southern region while the soil could be still frozen in the mountainous areas in Gangwon Province. This year''s first tree planting ceremony was held on February 20 in Jeju Island. This is more than 10 days ahead of the planting season designated by Korea Forest Service.

With regards to this, an interesting discussion was held at the cabinet council on March 24. The topic was mainly focused on using forest resources for green growth. The discussions included forest carbon sink to mitigate climate change, forest biomass as alternative fuel, creating job opportunities in forestry, and forest investment to expand green infrastructure. As approaching the end of the discussion, the issue of moving up the Arbor Day was suggested. At the end of the cabinet discussion, President Lee Myungbak added that he does not find the Arbor Day itself as a problem since the planting season is designated from March 1 through April 30. He further noted that Arbor Day has great significance in the sense that it has commemorated the successful rehabilitation in our country and reminded the general public of the importance of tree planting for so many years. Furthermore, present time is not the only factor to be considered but the future when Korea re-unites. He pointed out that it would be more practical to adjust the planting season instead of re-designating the Arbor Day if it is to deal with the increase in the average temperature due to global warming. His suggestions could have not been more correct.

The Arbor Day is a day for commemoration. The general public has been remembering this day for so many years. We should think highly of the value of this day. Moreover, isn''t Korea the only nation of successful forest rehabilitation? In fact, the annual reports on planting accomplishments show that the Arbor Day is not at all too late for tree planting. Approximately 55% of total planting goal is achieved by April 5 according to previous years'' data. In other words, the Arbor Day is roughly at the middle of the tree planting process.

Although it is no longer celebrated as a national holiday, this year''s Arbor Day is just around the corner. Tree planting is not just a national concern but a worldwide effort. The UNEP(United Nations Environment Programme) came up with the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign in 2006 and it is aiming to plant one tree per person to reach 7 billion trees by the end of 2009. Why don''t we take time to plant a tree and contribute to the global environment and think over the significance of the Arbor Day?

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