“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
– Chinese Proverb
Unless they block your view or drop seed pods on your lawn, most people agree that trees are a very good thing indeed. Plants are vital to the health of our planet because they produce oxygen as a by-product of processing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other nutrients for energy and growth.
Trees absorb the greenhouse gases that some people believe cause global warming by trapping atmospheric heat. The tree-cutting industry releases billions of tons of CO2 into the air. An estimated 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions result from deforestation. In comparison, 14 percent is attributed to transportation (cars and planes).
Human deforestation and logging destroy millions of acres of trees each year. Trees help prevent soil erosion, stabilize coastlines, and increase land fertility. They can help with water conservation during droughts and prevent flood damage.
Trees are a hinge-pin to a healthy ecology. Eliminating them creates a cascading effect on the local environment. Forests nurture a wide variety of plants and animals, many of which face extinction because deforestation is destroying their habitats. Planting trees to provide native shelter can help save these co-inhabitants of our beautiful Earth.
Some people believe that planting more trees could fight global warming and climate change, helping to preserve local ecosystems.
Tree planting counteracts deforestation in a practical way by replacing trees that have been cut down. But it is an activity that involves social, political, environmental, and economic issues ranging from global warming to food security.
Trees provide resources for fuel, medicines, gums, fruits, latex, building materials, and timber. They also promote a more hospitable environment for growing food by increasing soil productivity and offering shade.
Environmentalists have warned for years that vast tracts of land, especially in the Amazon rain forest, are being lost each day.
A 2018 study reported an overall 27 percent of all forest loss – 20,000 square miles annually – is caused by permanent commodity-driven deforestation. To put this in perspective, an area of forest one-fourth the size of India was felled to grow commodity crops over 15 years.
After commodity-driven deforestation, the next-biggest drivers of forest loss worldwide, according to the researchers, were:
- Forestry (26 percent)
- Wildfire (23 percent)
- Shifting agriculture (24 percent)
- Urbanization (less than 1 percent)
Deforestation is usually measured in hectares, a metric term many of us have heard but couldn’t define. To visualize how big a space this is, most sports fields are one hectare in size. One acre is 0.4 hectare and one hectare contains about 2.47 acres. The term “hectare” comes from a unit of measurement called an “are” and means 100 ares or 10,000 square meters (just under 12,000 square yards).
Every year from 2011 to 2015, about 20 million hectares of forest were cut down. Then things started to speed up. Since 2016, 28 million hectares, on average, have been cut down annually. That’s one football field of forest lost every single second around the clock.
Scientists now say that planting billions of trees around the world is one of the most effective and cheapest ways of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and substituting it with oxygen mammals need to breathe.
Many eco-friendly groups have responded to this challenge. Among them are:
The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees campaign
Launched by The Nature Conservancy in 2008, the Plant a Billion Trees campaign is a large-scale restoration initiative. The group first tackled restoring Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. Currently, forest projects are underway in the United States and China. Planting one tree costs between $1-3 depending on its location.
One Tree Planted
One Tree Planted is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The environmental charity’s mission is to make it simple for anyone to help the environment by planting trees. This organization’s cost formula is easy: “One dollar. One tree.”
Plant Trees with American Forests
Plant Trees with American Forests to celebrate a special occasion or to honor a loved one. Every dollar donated plants a tree in a wildland restoration project in a priority threatened ecosystem, including the Northern Great Lakes, Northern Rockies and Cascades, and Lower Rio Grande Valley. E-gift certificates are available. Donations include a one-year gift membership to American Forests. For every dollar given, one tree will be planted.
Plant trees while you search the web with Ecosia
Ecosia, a not-for-profit organization, uses the profit made from user online searches to plant trees where they are needed most. The free browser extension is downloadable to plant trees with every search. Here’s how it works: users search the web with Ecosia; search ads generate income for Ecosia; Ecosia uses this income to plant trees. As of mid-June 2020, Ecosia revenues have planted more than 97 million trees.
The importance of trees can’t be overemphasized. Ensuring there will be enough of them to sustain life requires mature, forward thinking about quality-of-life issues for future generations:
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
– Greek Proverb