Reforestation is seen as a way to help cool the climate as trees not only provide shade on very hot days, but also help suck excess warming carbon out of the atmosphere. With climate change warming up our planet, almost no one could argue with initiatives promoting reforestation. The UK government has planted millions of trees over the last decade, and has pledged another million between 2020 and 2024. Others have attempted far more dramatic feats: in 2016 one Indian state planted 50 million trees in one day, while in July last year Ethiopia claimed to have planted 350 million in a day. In the past few years, we have also seen a great number of companies, including fashion brands, taking on a ‘planting trees for every purchase’ initiative as a way to tackle and offset their own and their customer’s carbon footprint.
The pros of planting more trees across our planet are definite. Trees are responsible for sucking excess carbon emissions from the atmosphere, they provide shade and an evaporative effect, which can lower the air temperatures by several degrees Fahrenheit, as well as providing the local wildlife with a habitat. On top of that, according to Urban Forestry Network, they create an environment for other plants, and grow leaves, buds, and wood used by a variety of species.
There are plenty of companies that can plant trees in exchange for a small donation from both individuals and companies, but we are currently using Ecosia, which is an add-on extension for Google Chrome that generates income from each one of your searches. With that income, they plant trees only where they are most needed.
But is the process of planting trees that simple and will it be enough to tackle the climate change issue?
Within the process itself, a common technique for planting a new tree or sapling is to apply a plastic tree guard, to protect them from being eaten by animals although it isn't eco-friendly to leave on the ground. After a recent study showed that, emissions-wise, it would be better to lose a few saplings than to produce and use plastic, quite a few landowners are ditching any non-sustainable material for the process.
On top of that, at the moment, a lot of the trees being planted are monocultures of fast-growing commercial species like acacia or eucalyptus. These have no biodiversity benefits and when planted in wrong regions can actually do more damage to that specific ecosystem rather than improving it. The way to go is to restore species-rich forests as it can boost local biodiversity, as well as improving water availability.
Another aspect to consider when taking on a new tree initiative either as a company or as an individual, is that most times, in order to dig the ground to plant a tree, fossil fuels are burned in the process.
Therefore, protecting already-existing forests is often the way to go, rather than planting new trees unless an area could really use a new green space with some local vegetation or needs reforestation, that is.
Although trees can definitely help us slow climate change, they won’t reverse it on their own. The problem still lies in our society releasing greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), that are warming the Earth’s climate to levels we have never experienced before. As a result the great ice sheets are melting, contributing to rising seas, and extreme weather events like hurricanes and droughts are becoming more severe.
Planting trees is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to tackling climate change as firstly we need to protect existing forests. Other actions that can be put in place to tackle climate change are to eat more sustainably, or burning less fossil fuels and rump up our usage of solar, wind and geothermal energy instead.
[information sourced on yaleclimateconnections.org, bbc.com, greenmatters.com
Photo 1 and featured image by Noah Buscher on Unsplash
Photo 2 by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash
Photo 3 by Markus Spiske on Unsplash]