Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Why a tree-planting surge is vital in 2020 - the ‘super year’ for nature

  • Written by  Ben Fogle
  • Published in Opinions
Why a tree-planting surge is vital in 2020 - the ‘super year’ for nature
15 Nov
2019
Ben Fogle is a broadcaster, writer, adventurer, UN Patron of the Wilderness, and chair of Nature 2030

In December 2004 Kenyan professor, Wangari Maathai, set off for Norway from her home in Nairobi. Upon arrival in Oslo she headed to the capital’s City Hall. There the Kenyan activist was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize – the first African woman to be honoured by the committee in its 103-year history. Maathai was recognised as being the driving force behind the planting of some 30 million trees across Kenya.

Stay connected with the Geographical newsletter!
signup buttonSince its inception in 1935, Geographical has reported on many thousands of global issues, allowing readers to look past the boundaries and borders of our world and take a broader perspective. In these turbulent times, we’re still committed to telling expansive stories from across the globe, highlighting the everyday lives of normal but extraordinary people. Stay informed and engaged with Geographical.

Get Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday!

Her acceptance speech was an ode to the tree. Trees promote the kind of uncomplicated human kindness that inspire us to put our differences aside. They are an aide to conflict resolution, planted as a symbol of peace in societies riven by conflict. They nourish soils, alleviate poverty, and give wildlife a place to flourish. Trees, the Nobel Laureate said, bring joy.

But some 15 years after Maathai’s cri de cœur, mankind is still failing to discover the true potential of planting trees. This summer, research led by experts at ETH Zürich revealed 1.7 billion hectares of treeless land across the world on which more than one trillion native tree saplings would naturally grow. If planted those trees would successfully offset two-thirds of all carbon emissions from human activities.

An area of illegal deforestation in BrazilAn area of illegal deforestation in Brazil

Despite some glimpses of progress, mankind has got a long way to go to repair its broken relationship with the tree. According to the World Bank, in the 26 years up to 2016 more than a million square kilometres of forest was wiped from the Earth. The journal Nature reported in 2015 that humans have felled more than 40 per cent of trees grown on the planet. And between January and September this year the world lost an area of lush tropical rainforest equivalent to ten times the size of New York City.

Get Geographical delivered to your door!
signup buttonAs we brace ourselves on our personal islands, it can be hard to picture the processes of the planet continuing to whir. Marooned in our homes, it’s vital that we stay positive, motivated and informed. Geographical is committed to helping you explore the world from the comfort of your sofa. Get the world delivered to your door, with Geographical.

Subscribe today to Geographical’s monthly print and digital magazine and save 30% off the cover price! 

Last year, WWF declared 2020 a ‘super year’ for nature. It’s right. Next year sees countries across the globe adopt a new global framework for biodiversity. If all goes to plan this will be agreed at a special UN conference in China in October next year. In November 2020, the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow will see member states set out in more detail how they are to slash carbon emissions to keep global temperature rises this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

These landmark moments are hugely important but humanity will collectively achieve little for the environment in 2020 unless together we deliver a surge in tree planting. This means countries in the West following the example set by Ethiopia which, in July this year, planted 350 million trees in a single day. It means throwing our weight behind organisations such as The Eden Reforestation Project that has planted more than 265 million trees across the developing world. Or it might be doing something as simple as planting a single tree in your back garden.

Wangari Maathai knew the power of the tree to break down social barriers and breathe new life into our most precious ecosystems. As we embark on the 2020 ‘super year’ for nature we could do a lot worse than follow her shining example. Let’s get planting.

Ben Fogle is UN Patron of the Wilderness and Chair of Nature 2030. He is backing the MillionMirrorTrees campaign.

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!

geo line break v3

Related items

sub 2020 copy

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in OPINIONS...

Opinions

‘Regeneration’ more often than not means ‘gentrification’, says Jade MacRury

Opinions

It is imperative that governments support the farming and agriculture…

Opinions

The effects of climate change are disproportionately unforgiving, with those…

Opinions

By revaluing food we can revalue nature to build more liveable,…

Opinions

Callum Roberts is a professor of marine conservation at the…

Opinions

Daphna Nissenbaum, CEO and co-founder of TIPA, argues that clearer…

Opinions

Marginalised groups – whose interests are most at stake –…

Opinions

The UK’s new moratorium on shale gas extracted by fracking…

Opinions

Ben Fogle is a broadcaster, writer, adventurer, UN Patron of…

Opinions

More than two billion people globally have uncorrected poor vision,…

Opinions

Chris Cunningham, author of Climate Change and the Cargo Cult,…

Opinions

As the Amazon burns, Marco Magrini feels that it’s time…

Opinions

A new training course in Bali is hoping to change…

Opinions

Trees have many uses when it comes to better planetary…

Opinions

Appreciation of anthropogenic changes in the world’s great rivers needs…

Opinions

The reliance on outsourcing for processing UK immigration cases is…

Opinions

Why avocados, coffee and citrus fruit are driving a need…

Opinions

What lessons can we learn from the build up and…

Opinions

Since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti the way in which…