The planet needs forest

The tumultuous sea of life washes ashore lots of negative stuff. Where could we search for a positive program for rapidly changing life, both for ourselves and for the world? “Be the change you want to see in the world,” so goes the wisdom of spiritual teachers. What if we set ourselves a madly huge common goal: „solving“ climate change ...

Yes, precisely so – solving, no matter how naive it may sound! When reading recently the summary of a climate study by the Swiss university ETH Zurich, I fell into thought. The public knows climate change as an unsolvable problem of incomprehensible extent, a problem that we are running out of time to curb. Laypersons feel that it is beyond their scope to do something quick about it. So the topic of climate change, along with hopeless humankind, is hurtling toward an abyss like a runaway cart ... But researchers, who are sitting on the same cart, calculated out that humankind could still slow down the processes of climate change on Earth if we planted a huge amount of forest on our home planet: nearly a billion hectares.

The calculation of forest restoration potential excluded urban and agricultural land, wetlands and natural grasslands and came to 900 million hectares of land currently covered mostly by impoverished ecosystems. Over a half of this, or nearly 480 million hectares, is located in six countries: the U.S., Canada, Australia, Brazil, Russia and China. As a result of global tree restoration, forests could capture nearly a half of human carbon emissions in coming decades, bringing the carbon content in the atmosphere down to a level lower than in the early 20th century.

Obviously, reforestation of the Earth will be very costly: the estimated cost is 100‒300 billion dollars. Obviously, we should not create monoculture tree fields but forest communities specific to the particular site, which would, in turn, increase biodiversity in the entire spectrum of restored ecosystems. Obviously, we would still have to decisively change our consumption habits, minimize the use of non-renewable energy sources. And obviously, a zillion more details of the whole thing would need expert solution. But all this is doable if we acknowledge what kind of living conditions and survival choices we as humankind have at all left.

We are used to thinking of Estonia and Estonians as a small, smart and industrious nature people who are great spiritually. At the moment, however, we are caught in our quest for a new vision and mission both as citizens and as a state. Sunk into the lethargy of consumption convenience, we are losing the ability to see the big picture that would truly advance us, not just as a state and a people but also as humankind.

What if, under the widely renowned World Cleanup Action, we start the ball rolling with a new initiative of global “Let’s Do It!” forest planting, focusing the efforts of our tiny and smart digi-state on reforesting planet Earth? By doing so, we would, after all, benefit not just ourselves, and besides, we would write ourselves in the history of our home planet as a forest people.

So, the Earth needs a billion hectares of forest. What do you think? Let’s do it!

This content is provided for the National Geographic Magazine Estonia (August 2019). Read more at

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