There is no doubt that the characteristic green and blue colours from our planet are shifting tones, the green is morphing into brown, and the blue is losing its vibrant intensity.
Deforestation is partly caused by the accelerated demands for consumption linked to population growth. By 2050, it is projected that there will be nearly 10 billion of us humans on this planet. This means more mouths to be fed, and therefore, more planetary resources to utilise. To date, it is already evident that there are huge socio-economic inequalities interconnected with the climate crisis that our society is facing.
Many underdeveloped countries like Haiti feel the pressure of exploiting their land in order to satisfy the growing demands of beef, for example. Moreover, they do not count with the knowledge necessary for applying sustainable practices. Living in a ‘survival mode’, they feel the urge to cut down trees, which will be transformed into charcoal, boats, or building materials. These resources are essential for the islanders to make a profit and sustain themselves… they have no choice.
However, it is important to remember that, in a sense, economic development can be linked to wildlife conservation. Forests are still being cut down in poor countries, but they are expanding in rich ones. When a state reaches a certain level of income, it starts re-foresting: people become wealthy enough to stop relying on wood fires for cooking and begin to use electricity or gas instead.
In fact, a recent study evidenced that the number of trees in the world is steadily increasing. As it is shown, the increase in tree covers overcomes the losses from over the past 35 years. This global greening is happening in all ecosystems, and it has been reported that part of this due to anthropogenic initiatives like reforestations.
Tree plantations are a great way of greening the global environment, as trees absorb carbon dioxide and release clean oxygen for us to breathe. Environmental organisations like We Are One (WAO) have successfully contributed to the global greening of our planet. This student-led NGO based in Kolkata (India) has been planting trees all over the world as part of their annual International Tree Plantations. This project creates meaningful human connections within its participants, allowing them to make an international friend and plant a tree in their honour.
The first edition of this project took place in 2018 and had about 900 trees planted by participants from 18 countries… and so far, this NGO has done nothing but carry on growing!
With the 2020 edition, WAO has partnered with over 100 organisations, joining hands from over 50 countries, and a total participation count of 1100 people. Although not all plantations have been completed yet due to the COVID-19, WAO can safely state that about 700 trees have been planted! Additionally, this year’s plantation has promoted the development of underprivileged communities; the Sunderbans Fruit Tree Plantation has provided sustainable help to the villagers after the cyclone Amphan hit the village. 1300 trees have grown in this area, with 3700 left to complete the 5000 trees which have been planted.
As WAO amplifies its scope, this year has seen a great increase of partners in the European continent, probably after the founder, Kanishk Saraogi, moved into the UK for studying an MSc in Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Stirling, Scotland; where the social-distancing regulations did not stop the Stirling students to organise a plantation in the campus’ community gardens. It is very encouraging to see the youth joining forces and fighting for a greener future. These movements, full of hope and enthusiasm, could save us as humanity, so it is our duty to stay engaged, in order to influence the states, institutions, and organisations who are determinant in applying the solutions that we need. Don’t give up the fight!
Nela Cadinanos Gonzalez; Vice-President of the Stirling University Environmental Enterprises Society
Pictures from the Stirling International Tree plantation in October 2020, organised by the Stirling University Environmental Enterprises Society