“. . . . It’s a conundrum. We love our trees, and our trees protect us as we love them, breathing in the greenhouse gasses that are warming the planet, cooling our city streets and reducing energy costs. Chernobyl had nothing on the climate calamity we face today, but instead of protecting our surviving forests — both the urban tree canopy and the remaining wilderness in our care — we allow the pace of deforestation to increase at a breathtaking rate. Instead of replanting forests that have been destroyed by industry, we issue new logging and mining permits in previously protected land.
A new study recently sought to quantity the benefits that could be derived from planting trees in the coming cataclysm. A Times summary of the new report noted that “the planet could support nearly 2.5 billion additional acres of forest without shrinking our cities and farms, and that those additional trees, when they mature, could store a whole lot of the extra carbon — 200 gigatons of carbon, to be precise — generated by industrial activity over the last 150 years.” Planting trees, in other words, could go a long way toward saving us from ourselves. Although ecosystem changes may complicate the planting in this new climate, we have to try.
In Richard Powers’s magnificent novel “The Overstory,” which won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction, one character repeats a Chinese saying: “When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago.”
Then she continues: “When is the next best time? Now.”