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Agriculture

Published on July 31st, 2019 | by Steve Hanley

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Ethiopia Planted 350 Million Trees In One Day. Is That A Good Thing?

July 31st, 2019 by  


Officials in Ethiopia say 350 million trees were planted throughout the country in one day at the end of July. It’s all part of the government’s Green Legacy initiative which seeks to plant 4 billion trees this summer. The plan encourages every citizen to plant 40 seedlings. To help with that, many government offices have been shut down so public employees can help with the planting.

Credit: Chanan Bos/CleanTechnica

Only about 4% of the land in Ethiopia is covered in trees today. 100 years ago, more than a third of the country was forested. Reforestration is one way to ameliorate the effect of drought — a growing problem across the African continent. It also helps capture carbon dioxide from the air and sequester it in the wood of the trees as they grow.

Dan Ridley-Ellis, head of the center for wood science and technology at Edinburgh Napier University, tells The Guardian, “Trees not only help mitigate climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide in the air, but they also have huge benefits in combating desertification and land degradation, particularly in arid countries. They also provide food, shelter, fuel, fodder, medicine, materials and protection of the water supply.

“This truly impressive feat is not just the simple planting of trees, but part of a huge and complicated challenge to take account of the short and long term needs of both the trees and the people. The forester’s mantra ‘the right tree in the right place’ increasingly needs to consider the effects of climate change, as well as the ecological, social, cultural and economic dimension.”

CleanTechnica recently published a story by an author I hold in the highest regard about research from scientists at ETH Zurich who claim that planting 1 trillion trees could undo some of the worst effects of burning fossil fuels for the past 200 years. Not everyone agrees with the conclusions those scientists came to.

In particular, another CleanTechnica contributor, Michael Barnard, has written recently that building a few hundred thousand wind turbines would be a better and faster use of limited time and resources. He has a point. Trees take 50 to 100 years to complete their mission of sequestering carbon emissions. Wind farms can be up and running in a just a few years, although they don’t do such a great job of sequestering carbon dioxide.

The answer is, of course, there are a number of reasons why the Earth is overheating to the point where all life on our planet is threatened and it will take many different ideas to get things back in some sort of balance. One strategy would be to stop cutting down even more trees for things like palm oil production, beef ranching, and mineral extraction.

The report from Ethiopia raises some intriguing questions. Where does a country get 350 million saplings on short notice and how do the people know where the best place is to plant them? Who will water them, protect them from blight and other pests, and make sure they survive long enough to accomplish their purpose?

There’s more to reforestation than just scooping out a hole in the Earth and sticking a sapling in it. Planting 350 million trees is one thing. Planting them wisely is quite another. 
 
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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.



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