Friday, August 26, 2022
#239 / The Trouble With Trees
I really love trees. Review my past blog postings about The Overstory, the wonderful book by Richard Powers, should you wish to validate this claim. Also relevant, by way of proving my love for trees, might be my description of my still unfinished effort to document "The Trees of Santa Cruz."
Because I love trees, the idea that we should plant trees, a trillion trees, has a natural attraction to me as a way to help deal with the global warming catastrophe that is putting the human world in imminent peril.
There are, however, some problems with this idea of planting a trillion trees to combat global warming. Those problems are made clear in "The Trouble With Trees," an article appearing in the Sunday, July 17, 2022, edition of The New York Times Magazine.
Concerns similar to those outlined in The Times' article can also be found in a 2018 article appearing, online, on a UC Davis website, "Grasslands More Reliable Carbon Sink Than Trees." That online article is where I obtained the image at the top of this blog posting. Not to leave UC Santa Cruz out of the discussion, Karen Holl, a restoration ecologist at UCSC, is cited in The Times' article as expressing reservations about the "plant a trillion trees" strategy.
The flaw in the "plant a trillion trees" strategy, to which Holl's comment draws attention, is that when we think about converting grasslands to forests, through human action, we perpetuate the real problem that is causing the global warming catastrophe. The "solution" posited is that MORE human activity is needed - let's plant those "trillion trees."
In fact, what we need, if we want our human civilization to survive, is LESS human activity, not MORE.
The real key to fighting global warming and climate change. in other words, is to cut back on those activities that are generating greenhouse gasses and that are otherwise undermining the integrity of the natural environment. We should be working to maintain existing forests (which continue to disappear) instead of thinking that we can be successful in attempting to accomplish, by human action, what nature had already provided, and what human activities are destroying.
While trees do draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (one great reason to love trees and to plant trees), our basic commitment must be to STOP EMITTING, instead of trying to engage in increased activity to offset the emissions we have built into a civilization and an economy that makes "growth" its first order objective.
LESS gets us "more," when we consider how to address human-caused global warming. We must learn to live within the limits of the World of Nature.
Or, we simply aren't going to be around to try to do "more."