Impact Wins: Reforestation for the Planet’s Lungs

By: Martha Molfetas


Currently, the biggest reasons for deforestation and forest losses have been animal agriculture. We also lose forests through wildfires, slash and burn agriculture, and as wood for fuel. Every year, we lose 18.7 million acres of forests. According to the World Bank, about 1.3 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods, water, food, traditional medicines, and shelter. With the loss of forests we loose so much more than simply trees; we lose entire ecosystems and cost communities. All that said, around the world we’re seeing some interesting projects focused on reforestation, some of which even plan to plant 1 trillion trees. To put that in perspective, scientists estimate there are currently 3 trillion trees on the planet. On average, each tree absorbs about 22 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

At a time when we’re seeing our largest terrestrial carbon sink be put under threat and duress, we’re simultaneously seeing some robust actions by governments and not for profits alike, all intended to reverse course and bring trees back into the forest. If you were curious, our oceans are actually our planet’s largest carbon sink. And yes, that’s under threat too; but back to forests.

  • 1 Trillion Trees: just like how it sounds, this initiative intends to plant 1 trillion trees over 30 years by working closely with on the ground partners to put the right trees in the right places. If successful, this could be the largest reforestation effort every undertaken.
  • This year alone – China has reassigned 60,000 soldiers to plant trees in order to combat pollution woes. The total area of land that’s going to be strewn with new tree saplings is about the size of Ireland in the Hebei province. That’s 84,000 square kilometers / 32,400 square miles of trees. China’s overall goal with their tree-planting bonanza is to raise forest coverage from 21% to 23% of its total landmass by 2020. No biggie.
  • Last year, India managed to plant 66 million trees in 12 hours with the help of 1.5 million volunteers. As part of India’s commitments to the Paris Agreement, by 2030 India is to increase their forests by five million hectares to fight climate change. The year before, they planted 50 million trees in one day, clearly Guinness Book of World Records worthy.
  • In the US, the National Forest Foundation has plans to plant 50 million trees across various National Forests by 2023 – from Florida to Alaska.  
  • Conservation International is planning to plant 73 million tropical trees in Brazil, specifically in parts of the Amazon that have been struck by deforestation. Over the last 40 years, 20% of the Amazon has been lost to deforestation.
  • In Zambia, a new government run, public-private program called ‘Plant A Million’ or PAM intends to plant two billion trees by 2021 to improve the tree-based economy, boost socio-economic development, foster personal sustainability, and mitigate climate impacts the country is already seeing.

 

Pretty much anywhere you look, you can find a reforestation project or policy being implemented. These successes should not take away from the dire state of our world’s forests. It should give us hope for what is possible when we come together to do what is right for our planet and all the people who call her home. There is no Planet B.

 

 

Photo by: Martha Molfetas | Appalachian Mountains in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina