Since the rise of agriculture, half of the world’s forests have been disappeared. But this doesn’t have to be the narrative of the future.
Imagine a world in which the sound of traffic is drowned out by the sound of birdsong and the rustling of leaves. A world in which the air is a clean and crisp, always. Imagine a world in which trees are respected as sentient beings and not just a commodity to be consumed by us.
By asking a series of ‘what ifs’, this essay reimagines the future as one that reveres trees for the majestic beings they deserve to be. Whereby trees and humans are inextricably linked, from our ancestors to our grandchildren. Broken down into five simple actions we can take, including the lost art of silvopasture, we can create a future in which our forests are recognised, regenerated and above all loved.
This article was written by me and published on the National Regenerative Agriculture Day website – I encourage you to look around the site for more amazing stories of regenerative agriculture.
Unfortunately the NRAD website is under construction so here is the original article:
How we can reforest the world
Imagine a world in which the sound of traffic is drowned out by the sound of birdsong and the rustling of leaves. A world in which the air is clean and crisp, always. A world in which we don’t have to fight for the Daintree or the Amazon. Every. Single. Day. Imagine a world in which trees are respected as the incredible life force and sentient beings they deserve to be, the givers of oxygen, the takers of carbon.
There are roughly 3 trillion trees in the world, which is nearly 375 times the amount of people in the world. This may seem like an extraordinary sum yet, 12,000 years ago the number of trees is estimated to have been at least double what it is today. It is no coincidence the demise of the world’s forests coincides with the rise of agriculture. However, all is not lost. A study published in the journal Science argues, if we were to plant half a trillion trees, we have the potential to reduce atmospheric carbon by as much as 25 percent.
The trees are gone because of us, so it is on us to bring them back. I passionately believe this notion of a reforested planet is possible through a series of what ifs. Here are five ways in which we can reforest our humble home here on planet Earth.
- What if each and every tree is revered for the majestic beings they truly are?
In his book, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben illustrates trees as sentient beings that live together in communities where they connect, support and care for one another. Wohlleben describes trees communicating with each other via a “wood wide web”, allowing for vital social interaction and the transfer of nutrients via their own root systems and mycelium, a network of underground fungal threads. He argues that if we were to allow trees to live naturally in these communities, parents and grandparents with their offspring, this would make for stronger, more resilient forests. What if we were to truly believe trees are sentient beings with their own intrinsic value? Would we be so quick to cut down forests for our own corporate greed, treating them as a mere commodity? Our first step in reforesting the world is to allow trees autonomy, the right to exist outside of human consumption.
- What if we plant a tree for every baby born?
What if, when we registered our babies’ names and the date and place of their birth, part of the process commissioned a tree to be planted in their honour? This isn’t such a ground-breaking idea. The Welsh Government’s Plant! Scheme has planted a tree for every baby born or adopted in Wales since 1 January 2008. Since the program first started it has planted over 15 million trees both at home and abroad. Until a schemes like this become a global phenomenon, we could take matters into our own hands and plant our own trees, with each child growing alongside their own piece of nature.
Every year approximately 5 billion trees are planted across the globe. That’s almost one for every person already living on planet Earth and almost 36 trees for every new baby born. This seems like we’re already going above and beyond the call of duty. However, for every tree planted we lose three to deforestation. You don’t have to be a mathematician to realise that rate of destruction is unsustainable. Which brings me to my next point.
- What if we don’t stop planting there?
Why stop at new babies? What if every time we gave a gift, we planted a tree? In this scenario every baby born would have multiple trees planted for them. Every birthday and anniversary, every Christmas and Valentine’s Day, every retirement and housewarming, we planted a tree. What if everybody did this, every year? What if we opened our minds, our hearts and our land to this possibility? We might start to see a reforested world in which the air is cleaner and some of the effects of climate change are mitigated. A place where yards aren’t blanketed in lawn, but instead we have created and curated a special place to honour the people we love with our own miniature forests.
- What if we plant a tree every time a loved one leaves this earth?
What if every time a loved one passed away, in place of a tombstone we planted a tree? What if instead of cemeteries we treasured those gone before us in a forest? Our loved ones would continue to live through these trees. They would in turn become the life force for the very things that give us the air we breathe and in a true physical sense, live on. What a magical forest that would be. Until this time comes (once we have lobbied the institutions and governments that manage our cemeteries to get on board), we could plant our own memory trees in that person or pet’s honour. I think this is particularly special when it is a tree that gives us fruit so we can say, “these are Nana’s pears”, or “these are Lucky’s olives” and we are reminded of their spirit for years to come.
- What if we resurrect the ancient practice of silvopasture?
What if we revived the practice of silvopasture*, whereby forests and animal husbandry are integrated into a single system (also known as agroforestry in Australia). What if this lost skill became mainstream and not a neglected method used merely by our ancestors and a select few? According to Project Drawdown, farms that incorporate trees sequester five to ten times as much carbon as their treeless counterparts. Additionally, it lists silvopasture as one of the top ten climate change solutions available to us right now. What if, because of this, farms became nature corridors for native animals to not just survive but to thrive?
And while we’re on the subject of resurrection, what if, in all this planting we set forth to do, we brought back some of the forgotten trees from the brink of extinction? Trees like the Three Kings Kaikomako, where there is only one lonely female left in the wild. Or closer to home, the Wollemi Pines whose ancestors date back more than 200 million years, whose numbers are so few in the wild their exact location is kept secret to protect them from harm. Let’s bring the forgotten trees back because they deserve to be known. Let’s create a world rich in biodiversity because biodiversity breeds resilience in the face of adversity.
Planting trees doesn’t require expensive technology or the support of an anti-environment government, what it needs is people power. So, start today by planting trees on your own property. Create land that is multidimensional, biodiverse and beneficial to the planet. Learn what species are endemic to where you live and how to care for them with respect and in a way that’s mutually beneficial to the earth systems it is a part of. Be an agroforester, own a silvopasture. I urge you to go forth and reforest the world and perhaps someday soon the air will be clean, and we will all be tree huggers as our means of appreciation and love.
*Silvopasture (Silva from the Latin word forest and pasture the English word for grassland suitable for livestock) is an agroforestry practice that integrates trees, pasture, and forage into a single system. Incorporating trees improves land health and significantly increases carbon sequestration.
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