A Virtual Forest and One Trillion Real Trees
Planting trees is perhaps the most fun way to save the world. Who doesn’t love a forest, an arboretum or a beautiful avenue of trees? I am giving a symbolic impetus with my digital forest world map, but of course more needs to be done. Much more.
The World Map of Trees, shown below, is made of more than 15,000 trees. Together they form the continents of our planet, while the surrounding grassy meadows represent the oceans. A piece of land art on an area of approximately 200 hectares, accessed by roads and paths (the equator and some meridians) and with ditches representing tropics and polar circles. All this of course entirely digital and virtual, because unfortunately I have no backyard of this size.
Apart from the fact that this forest map is a nice addition to my collection of world maps (see, for example, the stained glass, scrapwood, graffiti and coffee bean version), I also made it for a special reason: trees are going to save us. If you have time, you should also read my factcheck: is there really no planet B?
Billions and billions
According to a study by ecologists from the University of Zurich, 1,200 trillion extra trees (that is 1,200,000,000,000) can absorb all the CO2 that the world emits in a decade. Of course that doesn’t mean we are there yet: those CO2 emissions must be reduced in a hurry. But it does give some breathing space.
There are now an estimated three trillion trees on our planet. According to the World Wildlife Fund there once were six trillion. The 1.2 trillion proposed bonus trees require approximately one billion hectares, an area the size of the United States. And according to the Swiss scientists, that space is available.
Forest = fun
Adding forests is one of the most pleasant ways to combat global warming. Heat pumps cost money. Flying less or giving up meat feels like a challenge. Wind turbines and solar farms are notpleasing everybody’s eyes. But planting trees can only make one happy. Forests are also good for biodiversity, water management, air quality and public health. Even if you are still in the denial phase with regard to climate change, you probably won’t have objections against those 1.2 trillion trees.
In some parts of the world the developments are promising. A number of African countries are working together on a Great Green Wall on the southern perimeter of the Sahara. In 2017, 66 million trees were planted in one day in the Indian state of Madya Pradesh. And China wants to add 26 billion trees in ten years. On the other hand, in Brazil and Indonesia, the tropical rain forest is disappearing rapidly. And those wildfires in Australia don’t really help either.
The Green Deal by European Commissioner Frans Timmermans, though sympathetic, is too modest in my opinion. Two billion trees, it sounds like a lot. But it is less than a quarter percent of the 1.2 trillion that we need. And in fact in large parts of Europe you don’t even have to actively plant trees. If you don’t touch a piece of land for ten years, a forest will grow on it automatically.
So come on, fellow Europeans, we can be a lot more ambitious. The European Union covers almost three percent of the Earth’s land area. So let’s also take three percent of those 1.2 trillion trees. Do the math yourself, Mr. Timmermans…
And if someone happens to own two hundred hectares to make a world map with real trees, please give me a call!