- Plant trees! But choose species native to your area.
- Donate to The Woodland Trust. They not only plant trees and protect existing woodland, but lobby government to strengthen legislation and meet its own commitments.
- Be a NIMBY! Fight for the life of every tree.
- Consider the impact of your diet on forests around the world.
- Volunteer with a local tree-planting campaign.
- Visit your local woods and celebrate their value beyond the purely economic.
Scientists around the world are working tirelessly to invent machines that will suck excess carbon dioxide – the key greenhouse gas – from the air. Fortunately for us, nature solved that one a while back.
Trees are living, breathing carbon stores. Just one tree can sequester up to 22 tons of CO2 during its lifetime – which, if my maths is right, is over 120 return economy flights from Edinburgh to Heathrow.
But their benefits go way beyond their ability to swallow CO2. They also help screen pollutants from the air, purify the soil and prevent erosion, promote biodiversity by providing homes and shelter to thousands of animal species, mitigate against flooding, and lower temperatures by transpiring water and providing shade (particularly important in our cities). And – it cannot be denied – trees are just plain good for the soul.
‘The UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe. And every day, more woodland is lost.”The Woodland Trust
For centuries, we’ve tended to only see the value of a tree once felled. And even today we’re rapidly losing our trees to developers. We’re losing them to new pests and diseases resulting from the changing climate. We’re losing them because the current legislative protection is ineffectual, and because grant-funding is dwindling. And, on a global scale, we’re losing trees because of the ever-growing demand for items like palm oil and beef.
There seems to be some debate over whether younger trees are hungrier for CO2 than their already-grown parents and, consequently, whether we should be letting trees grow to old age, or ‘rejuvenating’ through regular harvesting and planting. A recent study suggests the latter – that reforested areas under 140 years old are actually more effective carbon sinks than even the dense tropical rainforests.
What no one contests is that we need to dramatically expand our forests – not just replace what’s cut down – by planting, and planting, and planting.
Forests aren’t a luxury but a necessity. Reforestation alone won’t neutralise mankind’s impact on the climate, but planting trees – or supporting those who do – is one of the cheapest and most effective steps we can take towards a greener future.
“Whosoever plants a tree / Winks at immortality.”Felix Dennis, publisher, poet and tree-planter