We are only beginning to see and suffer certain experiences that our previous generations never had to contend with, and also to slowly understand the full gravity of the slew of climatic and topographic changes that have begun to overwhelm our planet. With the breakneck pace at which former forest lands are being turned into industrial and residential complexes, we are witnessing some of the most destructive weather and natural phenomena that had not been seen by our species in the last few centuries. Global conferences are constantly churning out evidence about, and research-based analyses repeatedly warn us of the condition we are driving our planet towards, with our current practice of senseless exploitation of natural resources. Significant and irreversible damage to our natural flora and fauna has already been done, and some fear that most discussions about the subject will be futile in a decade. So what can be done, if time is against us?

Our planet can only be saved by the efforts and goodwill of people who truly believe that they can make a difference. The solution begins with giving back to our planet the first things we wiped out from its surface – the forests. Essentially, our first and primary line of defence comes from the reforestation of the earth. It is only by taking that step that we can reduce and combat the serious damage inflicted by deforestation and consequent climate change.

At its core, the loss of forest cover caused the release of carbon stored in plants and soil, and changed the planet’s topography. However, reforestation is known to be the best carbon sink, and will ensure we begin to retrieve some bit of what has been lost. Further, we stand to gain a host of other benefits including a healthy wildlife habitat, clean water and carbon sequestration that can directly counter the negative effects of greenhouse gases. Pioneers have come up with innovative ways to infuse reforestation methods into our day-to-day lives and in urban spaces, with processes that can be undertaken in simple ways by determined individuals.

Our goal from here on is to introduce you to certain sure-fire techniques, adopting which will help all of us combat this massive threat that our planet faces. But before we begin our journey towards reforesting the planet, let’s try to understand a few essential data points about the green behemoths we lovingly call forests. They act as a primary source of food, medicine and energy for more than a billion people around the world. Apart from that, they host a massive amount of the planet’s biotic gene pool, a priceless commodity that is essential for humanity's future endeavours.

Forests tend to flourish in areas which get adequate rainfall. Estimates say that the world’s forest area decreased from 31.6 per cent of the global land area to 30.6 per cent between 1990 and 2015. While that pace has slowed somewhat, the rise in world population and rapid urbanisation have already begun to trace an ominous picture for forest cover in the future.

Forests are divided into 3 main types:

  1. Tropical rainforests
  2. Extra-tropical Broadleaf forests (Evergreen and Deciduous) and
  3. Northern Conifer forests
Tropical rainforests are usually found in the three giant equatorial land masses of the planet: the tropical Americas, equatorial Africa and Southeast Asia. The vivid hues and the sheer diversity of species in these areas are very impressive. Research has revealed that one square kilometre may contain as many as 100 different tree species.

Broadleaf forests are seen mostly around eastern North America, north-eastern Asia, and western and central Europe. They come in two major varieties, Evergreen and Deciduous. Evergreen forests retain their leaves during the winter while the Deciduous forests shed theirs during the colder months. Prominent species seen here include Oak, Maple, Elm and Willow.

Northern conifers are famous for their long, narrow leaves that are shaped like needles and usually covered by a protective waxy cuticle. Most of these tend to be evergreens, like Fir and Pine. Their straight trunks and soft wood make them excellent raw material for lumber, and they are used as ornamental trees during festivities. The Cleansing Power of Forests Forests have controlled carbon emissions for centuries. For tens of thousands of years, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was held inside the forests, from where it would eventually head underground. Here it would slowly turn into coal, oil and natural gas, which in turn would become massive energy sources. (That they are already on the verge of severe depletion is another matter altogether.) The humongous increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, one among the primary causes of climate change and global warming, is a direct result of the unregulated and excessive use of these very fossil fuels and the mass deforestation that have taken place over the last few centuries. So the first step to stabilisation is to restore Nature’s balance. While we work on figuring out a way to deal with carbon emissions, let us focus our attention on bringing back the natural air purifiers that Mother Earth had placed here aeons ago. It will be the most optimal and fastest way to arrest the worsening effects of climate change and global warming.