Forest News #10
Climate change is one of the leading global issues and reducing global CO2 levels in the atmosphere is a key concern. With this level of attention and concern, many people have been trying to implement technical solutions. Our video of the month gives an interesting overview of the technical, social and financial aspects that can make - or break - such solutions.
Welcome to Reforestation World’s regular selection of news, opinions, key events and science around our core topics: restoration and sustainable management of forest ecosystems and related livelihoods.
- We are happy to announce two new members in our project list, coming in from Gambia and Australia. Curious? Check their profiles with the links below.
- In rural Gambia, the Sankandi Youth Development Association - SYDA has led a community effort that planted over 200'000 mangrove trees so far, helping to restore local fish stocks, protect valuable farmland and recover local biodiversity.
- In tropical Australia, Brettacorp inc. has been planting native trees to restore the natural habitat of two endangered species, the Southern Cassowary and the Mahogany Glider (great candidate to join the panda in the category of "very cute animal to protect" :) ). Their work has a strong link to the local entities and people, helping to recover a diverse and rich ecosystem.
High-tech solutions and the "narrow mind" problem
- Climate change is a topic that cannot be escaped nowadays. The concern about ongoing changes and the impacts are both mainstream and everywhere: student movements, top-politician decisions, businesses (across all sectors) realigning their practices. massive media coverage. All show a concern about the scale of the problem and the effort needed to reduce current man-made emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and others, since these emissions are higher than what can be absorbed naturally without negative consequences (as reported by the IPCC here).
- People being people, the search for high-tech solutions that can remove CO2 from the air has been a focus of researchers and investors for several years. Particularly when such technology can also create good business opportunities. But what to do with all that CO2 that needs to be removed? One of the key ideas is to use it to create synthetic hydrocarbons, the building blocks for the fuel and plastics that we use in such a large scale. A recent article at the MIT Technology Review and another one at The Atlantic, give an interesting view of the scientific efforts and economic considerations of making such solutions real, usable and "market-ready".
- The video highlight of this month shows different technical solutions being pursued and stresses how they require a large initial investment, often coupled with strong public incentives (subsidies) in order to have the right market and policy conditions. Only then can they reward the investors, be launched commercially, and - eventually - be large enough to actually make a difference. But will these solutions change our resource usage patterns - which create the problem in the first place - or simply allow us to keep doing more of the same for a while longer?
- Given the scale of the problem, the IPCC states in it's latest special report that such solutions will play an important role in the near future and that it's important to pursue them. People being people, we need to be careful about focusing on short-term solutions for one single aspect of the problem (man-made CO2 emissions), ignoring the fundamentals of our current system and how it creates many other large environmental and social issues: from seas drowning in plastics to loss of terrestrial biodiversity, vulnerable coastlines, soil degradation and fragile food production systems, innequal access to resources and opportunities, etc.
- Here at Reforestation World, we try to highlight solutions that can bring multiple benefits, such as restoring forests and promoting better livelihood in the process. But it is important to remember that there are other ecosystems in addition to forests that can also absorb CO2, on land and water, and that guarantee numerous functions vital for our existence and safety. These need to be on the table and invested on as well. And, ultimately, we need to invest hard in taking better care of our global house - or we risk becoming prisoners of high-tech solutions for one problem after the other.
- Agroforestry is one of the solutions we regularly focus on. We were happy to see that this article in the Washington Post highlights it as being a relatively cheap approach (the main costs being seeds and training) that can bring many economic and social benefits to local populations in addition to environmental improvements.
- Despite its advantages, out-scaling successful agroforestry projects has proved hard since there is no single solution to be copied everywhere: local agro-ecology, policies and markets all play a role in determining what can work where. ICRAF has been focusing on these questions for a long time and their “Trees for Food Security” project is successfully implementing its results and learned lessons in Rwanda, where 2000 farmers are growing tree tomato. As in similar projects, the nutrient-rich fruits help to reduce malnutrition and to raise farmers’ incomes providing a double-win.
- Another example comes from Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee, a successful company sourcing organic beans grown in agroforestry systems across the tropics. Mongabay interviewed his founder, Dean Cycon, about its business model and people-centered approach to development, which empowers local communities through agroforestry.
Cultural and life-quality values of forests
- Visiting a forest lifts our mood and improves our physical health. Forestry England, England’s custodian of the nation’s public forests, has launched a campaign to encourage more people to make regular visits to woodland to improve mental wellbeing (#MyForestMoment).
- Speaking of benefits of visiting woodlands, several schools around the world are integrating regular outdoor activities in forests in their curricula. The approach, known as Forest School, embraces outdoor play for learning and development. A recent study showed that during Forest School, children feel more independent, and have a greater sense of personal, social and environmental responsibility.
- Trees can make our life better. They not only improve our physical and mental health but also reduce crime in urban settings. The exact mechanisms behind this relationship are not clear yet but urban planning should consider trees to make settlements safer.
- To commemorate its 40th anniversary the World Agroforestry has recently published a free online book on agroforestry, “Sustainable development through trees on farms: Agroforestry in its fifth decade”. A total of 80 authors reviewed different approaches to agroforestry and how it has contributed to the transformation of rural livelihoods and landscapes.