Cacophony or Symphony?
A parable of the sound(s) of the forest
Thank you for being here.
I know! I went M.I.A. for the whole of March (I’m sorry, my dear subscribers!), but it was for good reason, I promise. I was in the forest! Not just any forest, but a really really old rainforest: it has probably been around for hundreds of years at least. And I'm going to tell you a bit about that.
One thing that stuck with me the most about being in the forest was the sound. Before going into the forest, I was in a group, and we were asked, "if you had to choose a superpower that would make you able to talk to plants or one that would make you able to talk to animals, which would you choose?" Oops. That’s tough. But I can remember thinking that I'd choose plants. Just imagine the depth of wisdom I would get from talking to a tree that has stood in one spot for at least a hundred years (lucky girl, Pocahontas).
But as I walked down forest trails, as a mere mortal with no super-power, I mostly heard animals I couldn’t identify, not to talk about figuring out what they were saying. But that’s what is so amazing about the sound of the forest: It’s one sound, it’s many sounds.
Depending on who you ask, it sounds like a cacophony. But when you understand the science of the forest, then it begins to sound different, more like a symphony. It’s the symphony of an intricate ecosystem, with all its parts working together to provide functions that reach far beyond its boundaries. But you have to be really listening to hear it.
About 80% of all the species that live on land are found in the forest, according to the UN. And Nigeria, which is rich in forest resources, is home to (a part of) one of the most important forests in the world. The forests themselves, and the animals that keep them healthy just by being there and doing their thing, are in serious danger. Thanks to poor law enforcement (to prevent hunting, deforestation/logging aka. destruction of animals’ homes, and wildlife trade), limited research, and largely uninformed (by research) management, the odds are stacked against our precious forests and the animals that live in them.
The theme of this year’s World Wildlife Day (celebrated on March 3rd every year) was “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration”. And so, being in the forest, the realization that I was surrounded by so many endangered species made being in that old forest really emotional for me (apart from pretty sights like this photo).
Sometimes, we imagine that forests consist of trees just standing idly by, but there is more to it than we can see. Forests are also full of animals (some in danger of extinction) like pangolins, elephants, gorillas, and some bats, and that’s a very short list compared to the reality of the situation. These animals keep the forests healthy with their various eating habits, so what would happen if we drive them to extinction with our carelessness?
If like me, you have lived all your life in an urban area, you might wonder why I'm bothered by the dangers facing our forests, and why I’m trying to make you care, especially if you don't plan to visit any forest any time soon, or even in your lifetime. First of all, if you are any kind of Nigerian, and enjoy afang soup or ogbono soup, or both, then you should be aware that we need healthy forests to keep those coming. And that’s not even the most important part of it.
Tropical rainforests, like those we have in southern Nigeria, are a global asset. They're not found everywhere, but they provide functions that affect the entire planet. Forests are responsible for a significant proportion of the clean air and clean water we have, and they play a huge role in solving food security issues. There’s a lot that can be said about forests. But I’ll just say that without sufficient amounts of healthy forests, especially in Africa, we can hardly hope to slow down the rapidly rising temperatures of the earth. Also, we can kiss our fresh air, and a large portion of our food supplies goodbye, and we can expect to start fighting over clean drinking water in the very near future.
You may not live near any forest, but I’d like for you to realize that what happens in any forest affects not just the surrounding area or country, but has far-reaching effects on the whole planet. Nigeria’s forests belong to all of us, and the next time you hear news from one forest or another, know that it concerns all of us. And we need to follow the news closely so that we can keep those accountable whose job it is to protect our remaining forests.
I hope that from now on, you’ll also make a point of listening to the sound of the forests. You don't have to go to a forest to hear it, you can check out the links below, but I highly recommend going to a forest. I went to a protected, old forest, but you can go to an urban one too like this or that.
Stories from around the web (Some forest sounds for your weekend)
Also check out on social media those organizations like NCF, WCS, SMACON, and SWNDFP that work to protect forests and the important animals that call them home, and you’ll understand why their work is important.
Plus here’s good news for Nigeria's forests.
In other news,
Look out for the first podcast episode in the next couple of weeks or so, in which we will learn why we all should be climate change activists and how we can go about it.
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Thank you for reading. Until next time, stay curious and excited about nature.
PS. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. All you have to do is hit reply!