20 January 2022

The Great Forest Restoration

Written by Published in Books

Taking us from the barren sites of illegal logging and monocrop farming to the smouldering rainforests of the amazon. Fred Pearce in his latest book tells a revelatory new history of the relationship between humans and trees.

Fred Pearce is an award-winning journalist and author who has reported from over 87 countries during his career. Since 1992, Pearce has acted as the environmental consultant for New Scientist magazine as well as being a regular broadcaster and contributor to the Guardian, Washington Post and many other recognisable publications.

 ATrillionTreesA Trillion Trees is a hopeful take on the future relationship between humans and trees. Pearce believes that the damage humanity has inflicted on our forests can be reversed but perhaps not in the way you might assume.

Fred Pearce’s new book educates his readers on the best and most effective ways to reforest our world safely. By combining vivid travel writing with cutting-edge science, Pearce explores the possible dangers of mass-planting and highlights the critical role indigenous communities play in the process.

The book sheds light on the positive aspects of the world's forests and chooses to use ‘A Trillion Trees’ as the title, which is thought to be the total number of trees on our planet today. However, to what might sound like a large number of trees, it is estimated that this is just half of the trees that there once was.

Before reading A Trillion Trees, your initial instinct to reverse deforestation may be to plant a multitude of trees to account for the ones which were destroyed by mankind. Although, Pearce is quick to disagree explaining in his book that overcompensating could result in more damage to the Earth. He expands this thought by adding that the best course of action is to not plant at all but to regenerate the worlds already existing forests.

Fred Pearce debunks the myth that agriculture has a negative impact on the world when in fact, farmers across the world can be a part of the solution.  

He also argues that it is the mass led environmental plans which continue to play a questionable role in terms of effectiveness. Britain’s Drax power station claims to be the ‘largest carbon saving project in Europe’ yet appears to send more carbon dioxide into the air than 124 nations combined. The technique, which is advertised throughout this project, raises concern in general as for each tree that is burnt, another is planted. The overall trend to plant and burn wood for energy is worrying and allows the company to call themselves carbon neutral.  

Another large effort which was implemented was China’s aggressive tree planting policy titled ‘Grain for Green’. Although starting off very popular, Pearce highlights that the policy failed due to a lack of scientific analysis as well as only using a single type of tree across multiple terrains. Despite good intentions, the overall lack of education and thorough research led to poor returns.

The book focusses on the importance of indigenous communities. The responsibility of the world’s forests is given to the aboriginal people as it is understood that they know and need the environment most. Pearce explains in his book that community management is a much more successful practice than state protection.

The idea that evidence on new growth is often complex and unreliable is a topic Pearce also explores. New growth can be missed by satellite imagery meaning we could be losing up to 10% of the total tree population worldwide. The satellite is especially unreliable when it comes to the recording of large swatches of forested land in drier climates.

The book ends by focusing on the natural spaces near the author's home in London and celebrates the trees ability to filter out noise and pollution in overheated cities.

A new take on the planet’s forestation, A Trillion Trees is a refreshing but eye-opening read. 

A Trillion Trees by Fred Pearce is available in paperback, hardback and e-book.

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