Aren’t trees magnificent? They make oxygen, shade, food, building materials, fuel, habitat, and soil. They’re beautiful. They last for years – some for generations! They consume greenhouse gases and help keep our planet cool enough for us to live here. They draw nutrients from deep underground and deposit them on the surface when they drop their leaves. When they die, they form nurseries for new trees. They are a precious natural resource. Earth is currently home to ~3 trillion trees. Which seems like a lot…right? But the truth is, we could do with more. A lot more.
According to the UN-FAO estimates, about 30% of the Earth is currently forested…but what does that really mean? While every country in the world has its own definition of what “forested” is, in the United States, forest land, as defined by the U.S. Forest Service, includes “…land at least 10 percent of which is stocked by trees of any size, or land formerly having had such tree cover that will be naturally or artificially regenerated. Forest land includes transition zones such as areas between heavily forested and nonforested lands that are at least 10 percent stocked with forest trees and forest areas adjacent to urban and built-up lands.” (USA-FED-DA-ERS 2003) This means logged land, 90% bare land, and land with tiny fragile saplings is considered the same as an old-growth forest with giant trees sucking up CO2. Unfortunately, although about 5 billion new trees are planted or sprout annually (and assuming 100% of those make it to maturity), we still have a net loss of 10 BILLION TREES per year, due to human activity. Since the beginning of human civilization, the number of trees has dropped by 46% according to a recent paper in Nature. With all this in mind, it is possible to estimate that, compared to 10,000 years ago, there are only ~11% of the trees remaining in biomass terms.
Depressed? Don’t be! We can still do something about this. We each can make a world of difference – globally and locally – NOW, by reforesting the earth. We can be a vital part of forest recovery wherever we are – planting trees to bring the forests back to the levels they were 10,000 years ago, with our hands or with the gifts we give to loved ones and friends —and we’ll help stabilize climate change while having fun growing shade, oxygen, fruits, and nuts! Check out The Tree of Life: How Ecosystems are Held Together by Trees! It is easy for us each to begin! You can plant trees yourself, or if you can’t, there are many organizations that, for a donation of as little as $2, will plant one tree in a location that needs it. Why not have a dozen or more planted? If only 100 million of the Earth’s 7.4 billion people had 100 trees planted each year (~US$200), our “debt” of 10 billion trees could be wiped away and the earth could begin moving towards real reforestation again! If this sound unrealistic or too expensive, consider that for the last three years in a row, Apple sold over 200 million iPhones each year, at around US$1000 each.
If you think one person can’t make a difference, then look at one of my favorite inspirations, Richard St. Barbe Baker: an English forester, environmental activist and author who during his lifetime is estimated to be responsible for catalyzing the planting of ***26 TRILLION TREES***. As if that wasn’t enough, St. Barbe was the only person in the world knowledgeable enough to save California’s redwood trees in court, which he did not once, but twice: the first time in the 1950s, and the second time (because humankind is forgetful) 30 years—a generation – later. A similar thing happened in Kenya, where St. Barbe initiated an organization called Men of the Trees with a ceremonial dance to plant trees. He had to return to Kenya a generation later to reinitiate the dance. Thankfully, his persistence paid off and the organization, now known as the International Tree Foundation, it is still active today, with many chapters carrying out reforestation internationally.
Want to be part of the solution? There is an abundance of resources to help you start RIGHT NOW, while you are online. Here are a few I found interesting:
An excellent resource for looking at deforestation and reforestation levels, as well as other land use data in different regions is https://www.globalforestwatch.org/map
To understand the need for us all to act, check out The 29th Day Parallel vignette at www.johnjeavons.org in its A World of Hope Section. The time is excitingly now.
Ecology Action’s book Man of the Trees—the Selected Writings of Richard St. Barbe Baker was published with St.Barbe’s permission, and contains many of St. Barbe’s best writings in it. If you would like a copy of the book, you can purchase one at http://www.growbiointensive.org/Publications. I think it would be great to create an additional book/resource to inspire people to plant trees: each page would contain key St. Barbe writings; key world tree challenges, and corresponding key actions people and organizations can accomplish to make a difference.
Get out there. Or online. Plant some trees and help give our beautiful Earth something to smile about.
“If you want to predict the future, create it!”