Since the days of grade school science, the importance of trees for survival has been common knowledge. They inhale carbon dioxide, dispel life-affirming oxygen and play a crucial role in the sustenance of any ecosystem. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, with the rapid increase in civilisation, trees have been moved out to make space for human habitation. How bad is it? Let’s put it this way: Since the start of human life on earth, we have wiped off 46% trees from the surface of the planet. In the year 2019, we bid adieu to 29 million acres of trees due to deforestation and wildfires. In other words, a soccer field’s worth of trees was cleared every six seconds.
Why do we need more trees?
On the face of it, who wouldn’t love more oxygen? But the presence of a flourishing green cover on the earth has deeper consequences than that. Trees have the potential to soak in one-third of global emissions of carbon dioxide every single year, making forests a basin for harmful carbon. It is especially essential to safeguard trees that reach a mature age as they can absorb larger amounts of pollutants from the atmosphere.
Rapid deforestation has also proven to have links to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The science is straightforward: Trees pull in pollutants from the air for reducing air pollution. In the absence of trees, the human respiratory tract has been weakened from years’ of exposure to harmful pollutants. This can potentially make humans more susceptible to the disease. Studies have further proved that areas with a higher amount of biodiversity can dilute the disease within hosts, making the spread of animal-borne diseases to humans less likely. In light of the same, the High Court of Manipur has ordered the state to restore its forest cover to slow down the spread of respiratory diseases.
How many trees will get the job done?
To put it in a nutshell: The International Panel on Climate Change stated in its 2018 special report says that we need to plant around 1 billion hectares of trees. The World Economic Forum doubled down on this commitment to reforestation by announcing the Trillion Tree Campaign that aims to plant a trillion trees around the globe with support from local governments. When tallied against the current population of the earth, this figure comes down to 131 trees per person. Out of this ambitious target by the World Economic Forum, around 13.6 billion trees were planted by February 2020.
Planting trees makes for the cheapest solution to tackle the growing threat from the climate crisis as it doesn’t require any major policy change from the government. Every single individual has the potential to make a lasting impact on the environment by planting trees and making donations to forest restoration programs.