Despite our rapidly advancing technology, and the years of research into carbon capture, photosynthesis still seems to be our best option for pulling large amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere. This is why global deforestation has been such a big problem. It has not only been releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere, it has also been destroying many of the systems we have in place that act as a carbon sink, further amplifying the effects of the hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 that we’ve already released into the atmosphere. We’ve known for decades that reforestation, among other strategies rooted in the use of plants for photosynthesis, was a readily available, effective means of slowing the warming of the planet, though insufficient to stop it alone. As with so many other available actions, we have yet to make a concerted effort to do this, as a species.
Ethiopia has been no exception to the global deforestation trend, but they have recently taken steps showing what that collective action could look like. It’s a way that a government can use its resources, with the help of the people, to make a real difference:
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopians planted more than 200 million trees on Monday, which officials stated will be a world record. The ambitious initiative of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed aims to help restore the country’s landscape which experts say is fast being eroded by deforestation and climate change.
The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate announced more than 224 million trees were planted on Monday, surpassing the initial goal of 200 million trees planted in one day.
These trees will need help to survive and thrive, and by themselves, they will not solve the problem. Nor will the billions Ethiopia still plans to plant. It took over a century to destabilize the planet’s climate, and from what I can tell it will take many times that long to bring it back to anything resembling the planet that gave birth to human civilization as we know it. But without early steps like this, that long, hard road will not even exist.
As I’ve said many times in the past, there’s a huge amount that we could be doing about the climate crisis that we’re not. If there is to be any chance of a better future, that needs to change. There is no reason that other countries cannot follow in Ethiopia’s footsteps, and it doesn’t just need to be trees, either. It doesn’t even need to just be the restoration of wild lands, though that will certainly help a great deal. We could also view carbon as a crop, and governments could pay farmers to grow, harvest, dry, and store plant matter. The tools of industrial agriculture, which have caused so much damage to the stability of our climate, could be augmented with new, cleaner technology, and put to work re-capturing the carbon that plants captured eons ago. All the resources needed for this work are available now. All that is lacking is the allocation of those resources to this essential task.
This way lies hope.