Piantare alberi in massa non ci salverà dai cambiamenti climatici

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L’ultimo numero ospita un saggio critico sul piantare alberi su larga scala come misura per bilanciare le emissioni (offset) di anidride carbonica di altre attività umane (impatto dei viaggi aerei o di altre attività ad opera di azienda o di privati). Sotto alcuni miei appunti dall’articolo:

⚡️ Trees Won’t Save Us

In contrast, as some studies have shown, tree plantations can be more harmful to carbon sequestration efforts than they are helpful. Of course, it’s harder to claim that you personally planted N million trees if you let the forest do the work for you.

If you’re a titan of industry or a political leader with a devoted cult of personality — or something in between the two — it’s far easier to simply declare a tree planting target or a fundraising pledge than it is to get deep into the rich details of forest restoration and protection.

China’s massive afforestation efforts, though laudable in their scale, stand in stark contrast to the state’s simultaneous support of massive deforestation projects in the Amazon and Cerrado in Brazil

If the science and practice of afforestation increasingly complicates the idea that tree planting is a silver bullet for the climate crisis, then why do so many of us still want to believe?

Just as a few large and majestic animal species dominate headlines around ecological issues like habitat protection, poaching bans, and de-extinction — the so-called “charismatic megafauna” like lions, wooly mammoths, and whales — so do trees receive activist attention in ways that smaller plants fail to. Call them charismatic megaflora.

As geographer Diana K. Davis notes in her book The Arid Lands , our modern conception of desertification as a threat to ecosystems is a faulty notion, devised by Western imperial powers in the twentieth century to attempt to understand ecosystems beyond Europe. In deserts from the Sahara to the Gobi, states have attempted to plant forests as bulwarks against the specter of desertification. In many cases, they have done nothing but cause the problem they promised to protect against, turning biodiverse arid regions into so-called “green deserts,” areas with plenty of (monospecies) tree stands but little in the way of biodiversity or ecosystem services.

All of this is not to dismiss tree planting efforts on the whole as inherently flawed or in service of more nefarious goals. Efforts to plant trees, and especially efforts to help forests restore themselves, cannot be left out of any serious solution to the wicked problems of ecological degradation and climate change. Yet the status quo of tree planting efforts, haunted by the demons of relentless quantification and hopeless romanticism, cannot stand.

The logics of rote profit optimization and manifest destiny that helped usher in the climate crisis cannot free us from it. Neither can idealized notions of trees, divorced from both science and the particular context of land and people that each tree is planted into.

Instead, let our futures thrive as the messy interconnected webs of life that have proven so resilient among both humans and trees.


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