OPINION: Reforestation a popular solution to climate change, but not the best



A reforestation assistant measures a newly-planted tree in a field damaged during illegal gold mining in Madre de Dios, Peru, on March 29, 2019. Since the project began three years ago, the team has planted more than 42 hectares (115 acres) with native seedlings, the largest reforestation effort in the Peruvian Amazon to date. The group is in discussion with Peru’s government to expand their efforts. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

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Prominent YouTubers such as Mr. Beast joined the fight against climate change in 2019 by planting trees. This idea was suggested by his millions of followers posting memes suggesting that he plant 20 million trees to celebrate his 20 million Youtube subscribers.

His campaign quickly reached the goal of planting 20 million trees within two months with the help of noteworthy people such as Elon Musk, Jeffree Star, and the CEO of YouTube who has donated to #TeamTrees.

What caused tree planting to become a popular solution for fighting climate change?

When focusing on the impacts planting trees has on climate change, this solution is a cost-effective and scientifically proven method to fight the climate crisis. Trees can bring down emissions from the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen.

Increased levels of carbon dioxide are a big threat to the greenhouse effect which leads to CO2 trapping the sun’s heat energy in the atmosphere. This leads to changes in weather patterns.

Reforestation has positive benefits for the environment, as stated on the National Forest Foundation’s website, “when wildfire, insects or disease impact our National Forests, the timely establishment of seedling helps jumpstart forest recovery.” Additionally, planting the right species of trees helps make forests “more resilient to future challenges like climate change and wildfire.”

A few downsides of this popular trend include planting non-native trees, which leads to the acceleration of CO2 as trees that are non-native to a population decompose faster. Plastic is often used in reforestation efforts to help prevent new saplings from being eaten by animals; however, the plastic is never recovered later.

Rapid industrialization and population growth impose issues on reforestation efforts. In 2019, India took an initiative to try and plant millions of new trees. The goal was to keep around one-third of India’s land covered in greenery. Despite the efforts, only around 60% of saplings might survive.

Considering the drawbacks of reforestation trying to preserve our rainforest and protecting the trees we already have is a more preferable solution to climate change.

“Instead of that guy from Salesforce saying, ‘I’m going to put money into planting a trillion trees,’ I’d like him to go and say, ‘I’m going to put my money into helping indigenous people in the Amazon defend their lands.’ That’s going to have a bigger impact,” Forrest Fleischman, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, said in The Verge.