Trees Could Reverse Climate Change — And Ethiopia Just Planted 353 Million in One Day

Although we may logically know that plants are beneficial (and necessary) to our well-being and survival, we generally don’t do enough to preserve the natural beauty around us. In our home landscaping, we might clear out growing things in favor of a one-inch layer of rocks, which can provide better weed control, or cut down trees to make way for another office building or high-rise. Like the song says, we pave paradise to put up a parking lot. That, among other contributing factors, has led to our current situation: a world facing the dire effects of climate change in the here and now, rather than the far-off future.

While there are many possible solutions that could allow us to potentially reverse the trend, one of the most obvious — and most daunting, for some — is to simply plant some trees. A lot more trees, as it happens. At least one country is doing its part to make a dent in the number of saplings that need to take root in order for the planet to prosper. But the question is: will it be enough?

We rely on trees for so many aspects of daily life. If you live in the U.S., there’s a good chance that you have hardwood floors, which come from trees that can take upwards of 20 years to reach full maturity. Even if you have carpeting in your home, you probably have wood shelves, doors, tables, chairs, and countless other elements included in your interior design or structure. You might also have trees growing in your yard, as well-maintained shrubs and trees can increase property value by up to 14%. But as much as we like to see wood in and around our homes, we aren’t necessarily doing enough to ensure these resources are renewable.

And according to experts, it’s essential to plant more trees than we need for those purposes in order to fight climate change. Carbon sequestration, which describes the process that allows plants to take in carbon from the atmosphere and store it through photosynthesis, is a viable way to reduce carbon dioxide (known as the most commonly produced greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere. Estimates show that America’s forest currently offset roughly 10% to 20% of the U.S.’s fossil fuel emissions annually, but that’s certainly not enough to even slow down the impact of climate change. Conservation nonprofit organization American Forests has created legislation that calls for the U.S. to plant 16 billion trees nationwide by 2050 in order to have a hope of reversing the trend.

Thus far, however, America is lagging behind. But Ethiopia decided not to sit around and wait. Instead, the country launched its Green Legacy campaign to plant 4 billion trees during 2020 in an effort to reduce deforestation, mitigate the effects of climate change, and restore the soil. Although soil stores approximately 0.01% of the total water on Earth within its pores, tree planting can do wonders for soil health and erosion, as well as for emission reduction.

Although Ethiopia is the second most populous nation in Africa, the goal of planing 4 million saplings between May and October seemed lofty to some. But in a mere 12-hour span on July 29, residents planted a staggering 353,633,660 trees. The effort set a new world record for the number of trees planted in a single day and shows the country’s dedication to improving quality of life. Ethiopia has felt the negative effects of climate change already, including flash floods, severe droughts, and food shortages.

Ethiopia seems to be leading the charge in terms of tree planting, though some are concerned that these efforts might actually have unintended consequences that could actually make the situation worse. However, if we’re serious about stopping or at least slowing down climate change, experts say other nations will need to follow in their footsteps and start putting saplings into the soil.