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Deforestation and solutions; including reforestation
Deforestation of our planet, for centuries, has led to issues such as - loss of wildlife habitat; land, water, and air pollution; the release of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from the practice of deforestation itself (leading to an unmitigated increase in global warming); loss of trees to help absorb GHGs and create a healthy planet; and degradation of land quality. Humans have taken for granted products originating from forests (a vast quantity of the world's products of mass consumption come from forests), and food originating, or developed as a consequence of, now degraded or deforested land that once contained thriving ecosystems (especially land used for cattle grazing). The exploitation of Earth's natural resources for mass production and consumption of products and meat reliant on deforestation; has lead to the current global ecological crisis of climate change and degradation of large swaths of the planet's land. Within the past decade and to today, it has been calculated that global deforestation occurs at a rate of at least 18 million acres annually.
Deforestation is a top global contributor to climate change; from the polluting fossil fuel intensive machines used to clear forest that spew GHGs and pollution into the planet's atmosphere; to 'controlled' fires to advance the deforestation process; to the mass production of carbon-intensive goods manufactured from forests' natural resources; to cattle grazing on land cleared in the deforestation process (methane emissions from cattle grazing are the #1 source of agricultural GHGs worldwide); to the loss of forest trees, plants, and forest biodiversity needed to maintain healthy ecosystems on the planet. Project Drawdown recognizes reforestation as a top climate solution; both due to the biodiversity and thriving ecosystems forests provide, and because forests provide needed carbon sequestration from the atmosphere in order to create Earth's healthy biome.
The top 10 countries that hold the majority of the forest coverage of the earth; and also have among the highest global shares of deforestation, include large nations like China, Russia, Canada, and the United States. The greatest percentage levels of national deforestation is in countries that contain portions of the Amazon Rainforest, most notably - Brazil. The Amazon has the greatest deforestation rate of any large forest in the world. Some highly forested countries, like the Philippines and Indonesia, used to be almost completely forested; and as of today, have had over half of their forests removed; yet still - the Amazon represents the most egregious rate of deforestation.
Forests have been destroyed at an incredible rate for hundreds of years, both in the Amazon, and across the globe. Stopping deforestation is the obvious solution to the problem. Serious organizations committed to stopping deforestation in various global regions include: Canadian Forestry Association, The Rainforest Alliance, Amazon Watch, and Conservation International.
Global significance of reforestation; The global importance of protecting, maintaining, and restoring ecosystems; Agroforestry
Reforestation represents a holistic, practical climate solution to help create a healthy biome on the planet. Reforestation has been seriously engaged in by concerned private philanthropic organizations, as well as governments, throughout the world; from individual donors, to non-profit organizations, to NGOs, to sustainable corporations. One example of successful reforestation efforts is a forest started in Ontario; supported by the Canadian government, as well as private donors, called the 50 Million Tree program. Countries, states, and provinces, around the world, should make a concerted effort to invest more in planting forests, planting trees in planned urban green spaces, and setting aside land for nature reserves. "Under the Paris Climate Agreement, India has pledged to increase its forests by a massive 95 million hectares by 2030. In 2017 around 1.5 million volunteers planted more than 66 million trees in a record-breaking 12 hours in the state of Madhya Pradesh." FROM - bbc.com/news
Another successful reforestation effort is forest being planted for ecological, social, and economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa, just at the southern border of the Sahara, organized by Greenpop.; and supported mostly by private donors and philanthropic non-profit organization.. Greenpop's mission is to plant trees, to restore degraded forest areas, increase biodiversity, help communities across Africa meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and expand ecosystem services across Africa.
An example of an organization dedicated to reforestation, supported by philanthropic non-profits run by some of the world's best known corporations; including Google and Amazon - is Trees for the Future. Trees for the Future is an agroforestry organization working with local populations to improve livelihoods and restore degraded lands to sustainable productivity through tree planting; in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Trees for the Future's efforts are aimed at stopping deforestation, engaging local communities in reforestation and sustainable agriculture; and aiding the mitigation of climate change through investments to help restore, maintain, and protect ecosystems.
Please see more information from Project Drawdown on Protecting Forests.
"Project Drawdown defines forest protection as: the legal protection of forest lands, leading to reduced deforestation rates and the safeguarding of carbon sinks. This solution replaces non-protected forest land. It is assumed that forest protection primarily happens at the government and non-governmental organization (NGO) level.
Mature, healthy forests have spent decades or centuries accumulating carbon through photosynthesis. They represent massive storehouses of carbon in soils and biomass. Yet, forests are being cleared and degraded at a rapid rate, causing carbon loss as well as negative impacts on ecosystem services like habitat, erosion control, soil-building, water regulation, water supply, and air pollution removal.
Forest protection reduces these emissions from deforestation. Emissions from tropical deforestation and forest degradation alone are estimated at 5.1-8.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year. This accounts for 14-21 percent of anthropogenic emissions..." FROM - https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/forest-protection
Forests are natural carbon sinks, sequestering carbon from Earth's atmosphere, and providing oxygen to create healthy ecosystems on the planet; as well creating sustainable habitats for plants, wildlife, and the biodiversity of the forest itself. In addition to reforestation, Project Drawdown also recognizes these sustainable practices, related to reforestation, as top climate solutions:
- Land is a critical component of the climate system, actively engaged in the flows of carbon, nitrogen, water, and oxygen—essential building blocks for life. Carbon is the core of trees and grasses, mammals and birds, lichens and microbes. Linking one atom to the next, and to other elements, it’s the fundamental material of all living organisms. Plants and healthy ecosystems have an unparalleled capacity to absorb carbon through photosynthesis and store it in living biomass. In addition, soils are, in large part, organic matter—once-living organisms, now decomposing—making them an enormous storehouse of carbon. Land can therefore be a powerful carbon sink, returning atmospheric carbon to living vegetation and soils. While the majority of heat-trapping emissions remain in the atmosphere, land sinks currently return a quarter of human-caused emissions to Earth—literally. FROM - drawdown.org/sectors/land-sinks
- In their biomass and soil, forests are powerful carbon storehouses. [Forest] protection prevents emissions from deforestation, shields that carbon, and enables ongoing carbon sequestration. FROM - drawdown.org/solutions/forest-protection
- Multistrata agroforestry systems mimic natural forests in structure. Multiple layers of trees and crops achieve high rates of both carbon sequestration and food production. FROM - drawdown.org/solutions/multistrata-agroforestry
- An agroforestry practice, silvopasture integrates trees, pasture, and forage, into a single system. Incorporating trees improves land health and significantly increases carbon sequestration. FROM - drawdown.org/solutions/silvopasture
- Pumping and distributing water is energy intensive. Drip and sprinkler irrigation, among other practices and technologies, make farm water use more precise and efficient. FROM - drawdown.org/solutions/farm-irrigation-efficiency
- Building on conservation agriculture with additional practices, regenerative annual cropping can include compost application, green manure, and organic production. It reduces emissions, increases soil organic matter, and sequesters carbon. FROM - drawdown.org/solutions/regenerative-annual-cropping
In most traditional farming of the past, a significant amount of nutrients are removed from soil without being replaced. Major contributing factors to the depletion of healthy soil on farms globally are: over-tilling the land, monoculture (just growing one type of plant on sections of farmland without implementing crop rotation), and synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. From processes like these, there is constant degredation of soil nutrients, leading to poor fertilization from year to year; as well as an increase of weeds, bugs, and vermin. Basically, the farmer slowly loses control of the farm as a whole, when the quality of the soil is not managed over time.
Sustainable agriculture works to make sure that farming is done in ways that protect ecosystem quality. Sustainable agriculture transforms otherwise conventional farmland into environmentally-friendly carbon sinks. Sustainable agriculture turns farms into thriving ecological lands that sequester atmospheric carbon; while producing crops for food, and plants that increase farms' biodiversity. It is important for the farmer implementing sustainable agriculture techniques to understand the relationship between all of the farm's organisms and the farm's environment; in order to optimally create biodiversity on the farm, and to focus efforts on maintaining nutrients within the farm's soil, water, and air.
Cover crops, concerted efforts to maintain proper soil nutrition, no-till or low-till farming, crop rotation, and polyculture (vs. monoculture) - are a few sustainable agriculture practices that increase soil health. Cover crops refer to a variety of crops grown on farmland during off-seasons in order to maintain soil health; polyculture is also a practice of introducing a variety of crops - including multiple species of plants, on farmland, in the case of polyculture - year-round. Even if polyculture is implemented on a farm, crop rotation and low/ no-till farming should be continually practiced year-round; in order to ensure the health of a farm's ecosystems and soil health. Biodiversity of a farm's crops, plants on the farm, and other ecosystems on the farm, as well as proper soil nutrition; deter pests, and help maintain a farmland's healthy ecosystems, thus also reducing the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Examples of sustainable agriculture predominantly include farms that work to satisfy human food demand; while maintaining biodiversity and healthy ecosystems on the farmland. Sustainable farms enhance environmental quality and agricultural economy through enhancement of natural resources. For example, carbon farming is a sustainable agriculture practice that maintains healthy soils and is common practice in most organic farming. Practices to maintain soil health are found in regenerative agriculture, as well as permaculture (see section on permaculture below, and please see Green City Times' article on Regenerative Agriculture).
For information on how agricultural renewable resources can be developed and optimally produced on farms, please see the following Green City Times' articles:
Besides increasing biodiversity on farms (through polyculture and agroforestry techniques for example), maintaining healthy farm ecosystems, and a focus on soil nutrition; other critical considerations in sustainable agriculture are-
- Managing water wisely
- Minimizing air, water, and climate pollution
- Rotating crops and embracing diversity. Planting a variety of crops can have many benefits, including healthier soil and improved pest control. Crop diversity practices include intercropping (growing a mix of crops in the same area) and complex multi-year crop rotations.
- Planting cover crops. Cover crops, like clover or hairy vetch, are planted during off-season times when soils might otherwise be left bare. These crops protect and build soil health by preventing erosion, replenishing soil nutrients, and keeping weeds in check, reducing the need for herbicides.
- Reducing or eliminating tillage. Traditional plowing (tillage) prepares fields for planting and prevents weed problems, but can cause a lot of soil loss. No-till or reduced till methods, which involve inserting seeds directly into undisturbed soil, can reduce erosion and improve soil health.
- Applying integrated pest management (IPM). A range of methods, including mechanical and biological controls, can be applied systematically to keep pest populations under control while minimizing use of chemical pesticides.
- Integrating livestock and crops. Industrial agriculture tends to keep plant and animal production separate, with animals living far from the areas where their feed is produced, and crops growing far away from abundant manure fertilizers. A growing body of evidence shows that a smart integration of crop and animal production can be a recipe for more efficient, profitable farms.
- [BULLET POINTS FROM - ucsusa.org/what-sustainable-agriculture]
Other sustainable solutions for the global conservationist community; carbon offsets
Steps that can be taken by individuals to help with the deforestation problem include: going paperless, going vegetarian (or at least eating less red meat), recycling and buying recycled products, and using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood products. Other personal lifestyle solutions to help with global sustainability efforts include; using more cloth and alternative products (like bamboo products for sustainable lifestyles), eating less fast food, and eating vegan meals as often as possible instead of meat; as ways of supporting the use of agricultural land for regenerative farming ultimately used in diet and manufacturing of consumer products.
Paper products were once trees, so reducing your use of paper products in your daily life will realistically translate into saving trees. Additionally, meat, and fast food restaurants, contribute to deforestation because deforested land is often land used for cattle grazing. Red meat from cows makes its way to fast food restaurants (but not before millions of acres of once pristine forest is degraded or destroyed); in addition to the waste streams of paper products fast food restaurants create (also major contributors to forest degradation). Fast food restaurants, globally, can help stop deforestation; as numerous corporations in different segments of the manufacturing industry have started joining global conservation efforts recently. In addition to reforestation measures taken by governments, private companies, and concerned individuals;, and lifestyle changes by individuals taken to help the address the problem, governments can help with climate change cause by deforestation in other ways.
Governments like Brazil, and around the world, have the ability to enact carbon emission trading systems, forcing companies, and the major industries involved in deforestation, to purchase offsets to their destructive behavior. Carbon offsets can be purchased by individuals, non-profit organizations, and private businesses of every size, from small businesses to large international companies, and even governments; in order to lower their net carbon footprint and/ or in order to support sustainability efforts worldwide. Carbon offsets help balance out global GHGs and other environmental degradation; for instance damage to the environment wrought by companies which commit deforestation, and companies which are reliant on fossil fuels, are a partial solution to the deforestation problem.
In many cases, carbon offsets are purchased by international companies in industries running polluting factories, using carbon-intensive fuel for energy, and manufacturing fossil fuel intensive products; and this often includes companies involved in deforestation. Some offsets often formally offered in emission trading schemes globally include: forestry projects (like planting and caring for trees; restoring, maintaining, and protecting forests and their ecosystems), as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency projects worldwide. The amount of carbon offsets required for a company to purchase in an emission trading system (ETS) is proportional to the amount of pollution, GHGs, released by the company involved in the ETS; and should also be measured by the deforestation that a company commits, and the subsequent effect of that behavior by the company on the environment. However, as of now, most ETS around the world only use the amount GHGs released by companies, not deforestation, as a metric to assess a companies' responsibility for purchasing carbon offets. ETS, and other carbon pricing mechanisms (such as a carbon tax), can be mandated by states, provinces, and entire countries.
As noted above, regenerative agriculture techniques and sustainable agriculture practices are key to reversing the global effects and negative trends of unsustainable ag. practices. Sustainable agriculture practices include increasing the use of permaculture; as well as urban and community gardening.
The simulation of natural ecosystems, both in agriculture and urban planning, has the potential to help reduce man’s carbon footprint on the earth. In working to maintain permanent agriculture and permanent culture similarly there is progress toward the sustainable goals created in many cities worldwide. Some fields of permaculture and urban gardening include ecological design, Ecological Engineering, Environmental Design, Integrated Water Resource Management and Sustainable Architecture. All of these professions work with nature rather than against; working toward the goal of sustaining both nature and society for future generations.
The depletion of the earth's resources due to the processes of mass production and consumption, inefficient waste management, and the destruction wrought on nature due to fossil fuel infrastructure development are reasons for the need of permaculture and urban gardening techniques in agriculture. The need to work with existing resources in order to save the environment, and people alike, is a goal that has many nations working toward carbon neutrality in agriculture, as well as eco-conscious techniques in agriculture to preserve biodiversity. Chemical fertilizers and other environmentally hazardous methods like pesticides, are the way of the past in agriculture. The future of gardening/ agriculture lies in sustainable methods like urban gardening (techniques that can easily be applied to larger scale agriculture/ farms).
Here are the major components of urban gardening::
"Container gardening: Common for people with small patios, yards, or balconies. Container gardening makes use of a variety of containers – buckets, old tires, raised beds, windowboxes, kiddie pools, barrels, shoes, and watering cans – for growing all manner of plants for food or beauty.
Indoor gardening: When no patios, decks, yards, or balconies are available, indoor gardening can also be an effective urban gardening method. Plants can be grown in containers similar to those in container gardening, as well as in indoor greenhouses or solariums (sunrooms).
Community gardening: This is a method of using outdoor public or private spaces to cultivate gardens for food or pleasure as a group and is a great choice for those with no yard or outdoor space.
Guerilla gardening: A more subversive form of urban gardening, guerilla gardening is a way of adding plants to public spaces that don’t technically belong to the gardener such as a vacant lot, median, beside a highway, or in little strips of dirt.
Greenroofs: Roofs designed with a growing medium for the purpose of cultivating plants are also a form of urban gardening and can be used to grow food, trees, and many other types of plants." from Ecolife