Tree-planting and reforestation have been in the news recently.
At the Climate Forward conference on September 21, Bill Gates ruffled feathers and made headlines by saying it was “complete nonsense” that planting trees could solve the climate crisis. He took it a step further. “Are we the science people or are we the idiots? Which one do we want to be?”
Nine days later, Brazilian parachutist Luigi Cani dropped more than 100 million seeds from 27 native trees over a remote deforested area in the heart of the Amazon (photo above). I read that, once the seeds hit the ground, there is a 95% germination rate!
Like most things, it’s not either/or. It’s both/and. Forests are one of our biggest allies in tackling the climate crisis. Planting more must be part of the solution. Is it the only solution, as some suggest? No. There isn’t enough space for all of the trees we’d need to plant.
But one thing we know: protecting the trees we have is far more beneficial than planting new ones. Here’s why:
- New trees are small, which means they don’t store as much has carbon as mature ones, even combined with thousands of other small trees.
- New trees are weak, which means they’re more vulnerable to storms or pests. When a tree dies, the future climate benefits are gone.
- New trees are young, so they can’t support biodiversity, endangered species, or wildlife habitats.
- It costs more to plant new trees than to protect the ones we have.
- New trees do not provide resources for communities like fruit and nuts or environmental benefits like cooler temperatures and regulating water flow.
How many trees survive, especially in rainforests, is more important than how many trees are planted.
I support an organization called Coalition for Rainforest Nations that works with over 50 countries with rainforest, providing funding and creating strong policy to fight deforestation and increase forest cover. Consider supporting their incredibly effective work.