Franklin lungs of our land, purifying the air

Franklin D. Roosevelt said “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” Many people think that reforestation is simply about stopping global warming. The truth is much more complicated. Trees provide habitats for over 80% of all the biodiversity in the world. These ecosystems are symbiotic, to each other, and to humans. Global tree planting not only helps the environment, it also provides over 1.6 billion jobs and one-fourth of the ingredients in all our medicines. Thanks to The Billion Tree Campaign, over 12 billion trees have been added to the planet since 2011. The Billion Tree Campaign was inspired by Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.  Maathai said, “It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.” After five years it is obvious that planting a tree is not such a little thing.  Many other organizations have been active in response to this campaign, including the United Nation’s World Food Program, the World Organization of the Scouts Movement, and the United Nations Peacekeeping missions, all of whom initiated more tree planting programs all over the globe. Each tree that is planted in the tropics can remove up to 50 pounds a year of carbon dioxide. It takes 900 trees planted in one year to remove the carbon dioxide generated by one average United States resident in that one year. The kind of tree and where it is planted is extremely important to create the best gains for the least effort. Planting deciduous trees in tropical areas provide the greatest amount of benefit for the costs.  Planting is only half the equation, however, and to truly meet our carbon removal goals, deforestation needs to be halted as soon as possible. If both are done properly, global emissions can be reduced by 30 percent over the next decade.  According to UN Environment, fighting deforestation can save up to $2.5 trillion in products and services. 120 million square meters of forest are destroyed by deforestation every year and amount to about 25 percent of the global emissions. Palm oil, soy, timber, pulp, and paper productions are responsible for about most of the global deforestation. Stopping these trends is just as important as replanting what has been destroyed. In 2015 a host of countries met to voice their commitment to both stopping deforestation and restoring tropical ecosystems. If conservation, land management, and ecosystem restoration were implemented between now and 2030, we would be more than a third of the way to our goal of limiting global warming to 2°C, which is considered by many as a very ambitious goal. New approaches to solving all these issues are gaining traction. One theory is that the restoration of the ground beneath the trees is just as significant as the trees themselves. Restoring grasslands, reducing the use of fertilizer on farms, and planting legumes are all low-cost options for climate mitigation. These are called nitrogen fixers, and because soils store a lot of carbon, any actions that improve soil health rebound to the climate.Supporting the organizations that are implementing these practices is the best way we as individuals can help stop deforestation, promote positive change, and save lives. Do a quick search for “global tree planting” and you will find many great organizations that are promoting awareness and doing it the right way. The Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM) is another organization made up of a partnership of governments, scientist, policy makers, the private sector, NGOs and international organizations. They provide a platform for all the partners to find ways to agree on methods of conservation of natural resources and the environment. It is important for us as individuals to be aware of these organizations and to elect officials that will participate and follow through will the initiatives that have been decided upon