Economic benefits of planting trees

Forest sustainability programs are vastly underrated environmental boosters of today despite the clear economic benefits of planting trees. Their influence has been overlooked in favor of expensive experimental air cleansing tactics while forests are being destroyed around the world. Though most of their impact is found in cost reduction in areas like air purification and pollution initiatives, they also provide millions of jobs worldwide.

Natural Air Purification

Not only are trees cost-effective but they are also reliable air purifiers. One of the many benefits of planting trees is that they take in CO2 from the air and turn out oxygen. At the same time, they act as filters for particulates. As the particulate laden air moves through the trees, dust particles are caught on leaves and then are subsequently washed away with the rain. It was estimated that trees cleared 17.4 million tonnes of air pollution annually in the U.S. alone. The benefits on human health were valued at $6.8 billion.

Providing a cleaner atmosphere lowers the risk of airborne illnesses and at a much lower cost. Trees can provide relief for acute respiratory symptoms and asthma for almost one million people. Cities could save millions in healthcare costs and create a visually appealing cityscape by planting trees. Beautiful landscapes also boost mental health and civic morale.

Planting Trees Creates Jobs

Trees bring industry. Trees require a different amount of care in cities than they do in a national forest. Cities require people in order to water and prune the trees. Furthermore, specialists are needed to plan and optimize tree placement. Different cities and various parts of a city will require different numbers and types of trees. This creates jobs for urban planners, ecologists and arborists. These jobs are sustainable and essential to the success of an urban forest’s impact on pollution reduction and health promotion.

Through conscious management, a balance can be struck between conservation of forests and the industry they can provide (i.e., lumber). The lumber industry provides work for 13.2 million people worldwide. However, many of those jobs are primarily in deforestation. By bringing trees into the urbanscape, cities create more job opportunities and economic growth.

Lumber is an industry that will continue to grow as we see countries develop and urbanize. However, at the moment, the industry is causing harm by stripping the world of forests. We are sadly seeing our rainforests dwindle. Through enhancing forest management practices, investing in fire and pest management and developing intense monitoring systems, the economic benefits of planting trees can be brought to its full potential. An industry can be built, giving as much as it takes and ending the destruction of habitats, species and the climate.

Current Environmental Efforts

Slowly, countries are taking advantage of the clear economic benefits of planting trees. In fact, we are beginning to see forest and lumber sustainability programs developing in some parts of the world. The EU initiated the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument, Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (ENPI-FLEG) in seven eastern European countries. The program helped these countries improve forest management and sustainability.

Mexico has developed multiple community forestry enterprises that work to renew what it takes from its forests. The National Reforestation Program and Commercial Plantations Program are working to plant trees throughout the country. Even in America, we see states like Georgia striking a balance between taking from and giving back to its forests through their forest management programs.

Lumber is an essential global industry. However, reforestation, conscious conservation and land management are necessary to keep this precious resource from being lost. Hopefully, more countries and cities will begin to understand the benefits of planting trees and to step up to support the world’s forests and protect their futures.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Why is Nauru PoorIn recent years, news about the small island of Nauru pertains to the violation of human rights for asylum seekers. However, what is not being discussed is why these people are seeking asylum in the first place or why Nauru maintains the third highest proportion of refugees per capita in the world. The explanation partially lies on the deterioration of the country’s wealth over the last few decades. So, why is Nauru poor?

In fact, the country was not always poor. In 1980 Nauru became the wealthiest nation globally, per capita. The country’s natural resource endowments were recognized for this feat. Large deposits of phosphate were discovered in the late 19th century across the island, and once Nauru gained independence in 1968, intensive mining boosted the country’s income.

After this, Nauru seemed to experience what is called the “resource curse.” While the country’s specialization in phosphate mining originally provided wealth, Nauru experienced a drastic economic collapse when phosphate ran out in the early 1980s.

The country was then left with was a series of long-term problems. Today, 50 percent of households in Nauru live on an average of only $9000 a year. As phosphate mining had such a destructive toll on the environment, 80 percent of the island has been labeled wasteland and threatens the remaining resources. Because the phosphate specialization drove away other business previously developed in the country, it now obtains limited revenue, and the unemployment rate in 2011 rested at 23 percent.

To spark growth in Nauru’s economy, the government agreed to open the Australian Regional Processing Center for asylum seekers in 2012. Australia’s offshoring tactics pay Nauru $312 million annually to run detention centers on the island.

While this has improved the incomes of families in Nauru, the country has faced much backlash due to the living conditions of the refugees sent to the country. Consequently, a new deal is being formulated to move these vulnerable groups to other areas including Cambodia and the United States. This will leave Nauru, again, without the revenues necessary to keep its people from poverty.

Reverand James Aingimea, a minister of the Nauru Congregational Church confessed to the New York Times, “I wish we’d never discovered that phosphate…When I was a boy, it was so beautiful… Now I see what has happened here, and I want to cry.” This pain can be felt across the island where the residents bear witness to the question, “why is Nauru poor?” The exploitation of Nauru without environmental protection or diversification in the economy has led the nation to a state of dependency.

Tess Hinteregger

Photo: Google

Green Revolution in AfricaAs climate change threatens to alter weather patterns around the world, farmers face the challenges of increased frequency and intensity of droughts. Reliant on rainwater for crop production, these communities often struggle to produce food levels sufficient for even a subsistence farming lifestyle. However, drought-resistant crops may be the solution to negating the effects of these issues and ushering in the new green revolution in Africa.

In 2006, the DTMA (Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa) Initiative was launched with the aim of increasing crop output and negating the effects of drought in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa. The project has brought together all types of communities, from local agricultural groups and seed producers to research institutions and NGOs.

Of course, this ultimately raises the most the most important question of all: has the new green revolution in Africa succeeded?

“Green Revolution” is a term defined as the increased production of crop yields through the use of improved technological application, the use of pesticides and better management. There are a few areas where this definition applies more to the successes of the DTMA Initiative. In 2015, the drought-resistant maize improved crop output in 13 countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and others. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has reported that hybrid seeds will benefit an estimated 2.5 million people in the region.

“I was truly amazed. I harvested 110 kilograms of maize from the tiny demonstration plot,” 61-year-old farmer Jotham Apamo, whose farm previously yielded a mere 10 kilograms, told WIPO Magazine. “[Before] there was hardly any gain for me. I was pushed into debt. I couldn’t feed my family or pay for my children’s school fees.”

In the meantime, Kenyan scientists at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) have been studying and perfecting the creation and application of this crop (as well as studying disease-resisting properties) since 2013. Researchers have stated that the hybrid seed responsible for Africa’s next green revolution will be available later this year.

Brad Tait

Photo: Flickr

Ways Developing Countries Are Helping the EnvironmentThere was international outrage when President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement in June. But some of the countries most affected by climate change are still making commitments to protecting the planet. The Borgen Project highlights five ways developing countries are helping the environment.


1. Preventing Plastic in the Pacific
At the recent U.N. Oceans Summit, four developing Asian nations pledged to keep plastic out of the ocean. More than eight million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year. But that number may drastically shrink now that China, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines have pledged to protect the Pacific from plastic. These nations are some of the biggest contributors to plastic pollution. The Helmholtz Center in Germany estimates that reducing plastic loads in ten Asian rivers could reduce global plastic pollution by 37 percent.

2. Beach Clean-Up
Over a period of two years, local volunteers performed the “world’s largest beach clean-up” on Versova Beach in Mumbai, India. Lawyer and environmentalist Afroz Shah led the effort. Over the course of twenty-one months, he and the volunteers collected 5.3 million kilograms of decomposing trash, cleaned 52 public toilets and planted 50 coconut trees. Thanks to this grassroots effort, Versova Beach has been completely transformed.

3. Environmental Education
The Cloud Forest School in Monteverde, Costa Rica serves local students from pre-school through eleventh grade. In addition to providing the students with a bilingual education and financial aid, the Cloud Forest School teaches a curriculum of environmental sustainability. By providing the tools and knowledge to address environmental issues, the Cloud Forest school prepares the local population to care for the environment at home and at the global level.

4. Community-Led Conservation
Somali conservationist Fatima Jibrell engages local African communities in conservation efforts and addresses the populations’ needs from within. For example, to protect acacia trees in Somalia, she provided solar cookers to use instead of charcoal from the trees. Her organization, African Development Solutions, has employed over 120,000 African people in environmental work through its cash-for-work program. Jibrell is one of the most prominent African conservationists and has received many international awards for her earth-saving efforts.

5. “Greening” Latin America
Latin America is the most biodiverse region in the world and one of the most vulnerable to climate change. Because of this unique position, many Latin American leaders and environmental activists have taken up efforts to reduce Latin America’s environmental damage. These initiatives include reducing urban emissions through public transportation in Brazil and bike sharing in Argentina. They also include protecting forests and designating national parks in Argentina and Costa Rica. Costa Rica has even set the impressive goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2021. These are a few of the ways the world’s most ecologically impressive area has committed to staying that way.

Developing countries are the most at-risk for the hazards brought on by climate change, and many are already feeling these effects through floods, droughts and natural disasters. There are many ways developing countries are helping the environment already, but environmental issues are international threats that require a global response.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Flickr

Oil SpillThe Niger Delta, spanning 70,000 square kilometers – equivalent to 7.5 percent of Nigeria’s total land mass – is home to 20 million people. In the Niger Delta, amidst the wild lands and individuals, 2.7 million barrels of oil are extracted per day. One government agency, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), collects data and reports the amounts of petroleum jettisoned into the environment.

The NNPC places the petroleum quantity spilled at 2,300 cubic meters, averaging 300 individual annual spills. Nigerian federal government figures estimate more than 7,000 oil spill incidents between 1970 and 2000. Between nine million and 13 million barrels have been spilled in the Niger Delta since 1958. Despite this data, the World Bank argues that the exact quantity of petroleum may actually be 10 times greater, as oil spill incidents may not always be reported.

Technology such as BIOCLEAN, provided by The U.S. nonprofit Sustainability International, is making cleaning the Niger Delta easier and more efficient. BIOCLEAN restores contaminated sites and decontaminates in less than 30 days with one application. Chinyere Nnadi is the founder of Sustainability International; motivated by the success of new technology, he has collaborated with the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition (BSIC). BSIC develops and implements solutions that can address social and environmental challenges. Blockchain-based solutions track transactions such as votes casted in elections and raw material sourcing.

Alongside the efforts of nonprofits such as Sustainability International, the one billion dollar clean-up plan signed last year by Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, continues along. The plan was devised by the collaboration of UN engineers, oil companies and the Nigerian government. As a part of this plan, factories are built to process and clean tens of thousands of tonnes of contaminated soil. In addition to cleaning, the plan mandates a mass replanting of mangroves.

The Niger Delta has endured years and years of environmental damage. The uncountable amounts of oil spilled may seem as dark and gloomy as the substance itself; however, innovation and environmental sustainability will lead to the eventual clean-up of the Niger Delta. If current efforts are able to continue making progress, it is possible the Niger Delta will be cleaned in less than 25 years, with all the swamps, creeks, fishing grounds and mangroves restored.

Yosef Mahmoud
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and the Environment: 5 Ways Helping the World’s PoorAddressing issues that concern poverty and the environment are not mutually exclusive, since they both are pervasive human issues with distinctive causes and any number of solutions. Here are just a few ways helping the world’s poor helps our environment.

Solid Waste Management

Better solid waste management reduces air and water pollution caused by open burning and chemical seepage. Open burning in backyards or public spaces is a common method of waste disposal, particularly in developing nations. This is due to a lack of efficient disposal infrastructure. Open burning releases copious amounts of carbon monoxide and dioxide, carcinogens and other air pollutants detrimental to human and environmental health.

Improve Sanitation

Improved sanitation decreases chemical and waste runoff, reduces the risk of disease and creates a better environment for people, plants and animals.

Adequate sanitation is essential to human health, but approximately 2.5 billion people still lack access to it. This is a problem because human waste often leaches into surrounding groundwater when it is not disposed of properly or latrine pits are unlined. Also, if the latrine is lined, when it is emptied, it remains common practice to simply dump its contents into the nearest body of water, or onto the ground. This poses great health risks in terms of disease epidemics, bacterial infection and water pollution.

Water Purification

Water purification helps alleviate water pollution and decrease the risk of bacteria harmful to the habitat and the people who inhabit it.

Nearly 85 percent of the world’s population lives in the driest parts of the planet and 783 million people lack access to a clean water source. Due to inadequate sanitation and practices like open burning, there is a far greater risk to the poorest, most rural segments of the population living in developing nations when it comes to disease outbreak and water contamination. However, water pollution does not just hurt people, it also hurts the plants and animals that draw their source of life from the same body of water. Water purification would decrease the risks to human and environmental health posed by chemical runoff, waste seepage and acid rain.

Ending Harmful Practices

Education spreads awareness that would help reduce the frequency of harmful practices such as open burning, slash-and-burn agriculture or overfishing.

Slash-and-burn agriculture is a common method of food production in which a patch of land is cleared of its forestation, after which the remaining vegetation is burned. This is an agricultural practice that accelerates deforestation. Meanwhile, overfishing hurts future fish populations making it harder to secure food in the future and damaging the marine ecosystem from which the fish came. Education is a simple method to help alleviate the problems that are posed by poverty and the environment by promoting conscientiousness and discouraging unsustainable practices such as these.

Caring about people entails caring about the environment in which they live. Helping one helps the other. Currently, many developing nations are forced to resort to practices that hurt the environment out of sheer necessity or lack of knowledge concerning their effects. Therefore, efforts to reduce problems surrounding poverty and the environment act cyclically to benefit each other.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

What are Climate Refugees and How Can They be Protected?
At the end of 2015, there were 65.3 million refugees worldwide. The global community is struggling to provide resources for the world’s displaced peoples, and the situation has caused both economic and security issues. Many people are ignorant to the fact that there is another group of people who are extremely vulnerable to losing their homes.

Climate refugees, or environmental migrants, are forced to leave their homes because of climatically induced environmental changes or disasters. Specifically, people may be displaced because of drought, a rise in sea level, ecological changes, desertification or extreme weather patterns. Protecting climate change refugees grows increasingly relevant as the number of displaced peoples across the globe continues to skyrocket.

Since 2008, an average of 27 million people have been classified annually as climate refugees and in 2009, the Environmental Justice Foundation declared that nearly 10 percent of the world’s population were at risk in terms of losing their homes to climate change related issues.

As climate change continues to spread and develop, more and more people fall victim to environmental migration. The existence of environmental migrants proves that climate change is not solely about the environment and that its effects reach into many aspects of society, including politics, health and economics. Protecting climate refugees is important, as sources have suggested there could be as many as 50 to 200 million by the year 2050, most of these people being subsistence farmers and fishermen.

Just this year, the U.S. resettled its first climate refugees. The population is from the Isle de Jean Charles in southeastern Louisiana and they had to leave their homes due to severe flooding. In order to resettle its residents, the U.S. government has put forth a $48 million grant and has realized the harsh reality of this problem.

According to the International Organization for Migration, “Climate refugees often fall through the cracks of asylum law.” Currently, it is very difficult for an environmental migrant to achieve refugee status. The term “climate refugee” is not officially recognized by international law and according to the International Bar Association, “there are no frameworks, no conventions, no protocols and no specific guidelines that can provide protection and assistance for people crossing international borders because of climate change.”

The World Bank estimates that with a 1-meter rise in sea level, Bangladesh would lose close to 20 percent of its land mass. Currently, almost 200,000 Bangladeshi’s lose their homes annually due to river erosion and rising sea levels. The islands of Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu are already facing significant migration patterns due to the rising sea.

The lack of international protocol regarding climate refugees, such as the ones from Bangladesh and the small islands in the Central Pacific, means that there is also a lack of resources and pathways that can lead these people to a successful resettlement. Because of this, migration experts have been stressing for several years that at risk countries should first look into improving living conditions for vulnerable populations.

This includes helping them secure a consistent access to food and water, rebuilding infrastructure and establishing efficient emergency warning systems. As countries become more aware of their ecological situations, there is more pressure to provide resources for potential climate refugees.

In order to protect climate refugees, there needs to be a change in the international law that defines a “refugee.” The number of people affected in a negative way climatically grows by the day.

Besides advocating for universal policies regarding climate refugees, there are things that can be done to slow climate change and its negative effects. Supporting clean energy and anti-carbon emission related legislation can make a difference in improving the lives of communities who are vulnerable to environmental migration.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

 Sustainable Tourism
Tourism brings both advantages and disadvantages to a country. It can bring wealth and jobs to communities that would otherwise remain poor just as much as it can lead to social dislocation, loss of cultural heritage and ecological degradation. UNESCO claims that tourism must be sustainable for the advantages to outweigh the disadvantages.

“Tourism that respects both local people and the traveler, cultural heritage and the environment” is what UNESCO calls sustainable tourism. This form seeks to benefit the host country and local economies so that people in that country may have better lives.

Evidence shows that sustainable tourism is a great tool for development and poverty alleviation in developing countries. These are ten ways in which sustainable tourism alleviates poverty:

  1. “Tourism is one of the most important sources of foreign exchange earnings and job creation in many poor and developing countries with limited options for alternative economic development” according to the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
  2. Tourism can be directly taxed creating the necessary funds for improving infrastructure, education and health on the ground.
  3. The tourism industry employs a high proportion of women, which contributes to gender equality and women’s empowerment in poor countries.
  4. Locally owned microenterprises ran by the poor serve as a benefit, as tourists buy a wide variety of goods and services.
  5. Sustainable tourism leads to employment diversification on a local level, which reduces the vulnerability of the poor.
  6. The UNWTO claims, “Wages can often reach $1,000 to $4,000 per worker per year.” This is enough to bring workers and their families above the poverty line.
  7. In 2012, the tourism industry accounted for more than 260 million jobs according to the International Labor Office (ILO). This number is expected to rise given that tourism is one of the fastest growing industries.
  8. The tourism industry employs a high proportion of individuals under 25. As a result, youth gain access to higher earnings and better opportunities through sustainable tourism.
  9. Tourism provides a vast number of jobs to people with little or no formal training.
  10. Working conditions are generally decent within the tourism industry as the industry depends on providing a quality service.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are many other ways in which tourism can help the poor. As long as tourism is sustainable and wealth from tourism trickles down to the poor, the poorest countries will prosper. Given the increasing popularity of sustainable tourism, prosperity and wealth are a likely prospect for many poor countries.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nauru
Located 4,000 km from Sydney, Australia is the smallest island in the world, expanding out 21 square kilometers — this is Nauru. What was once the wealthiest nation on the planet is now in shambles. The country thrived on agriculture and phosphate mining; however, now that all of the phosphate resources were stripped from the island, what remains is a wasteland.

Because of the staggering descent into poverty in Nauru, which is desperate for money, the nation has traded in the phosphate business for migrants. In 2001, Nauru entered into an agreement with Australia in which Nauru would hold refugees trying to enter Australia in return for foreign aid.

How did the wealthiest nation become desperate for foreign aid? After seizing independence from Britain in 1968, the nation’s inhabitants grew extremely wealthy from exporting phosphate. On top of that, the government revoked taxes and gave its inhabitants monthly stipends.

This way of governing provided the people with no incentive to find jobs, start businesses or provide for the economy. The money that was propagated eroded in corruption and poorly executed distribution of investments. By 1980, all the phosphate was basically depleted from the island. Poverty in Nauru increased from there. Now, 80 percent of the island is covered in limestone pinnacles, making it uninhabitable and utterly useless.

Mining in Nauru not only destroyed the land, but also the coastal waters as it has been contaminated due to phosphate runoff. Not only is there poverty in Nauru, but also a serious health crisis. A nation that had once cultivated the land for fresh crops and fished, is now home to some of the most obese and sick people.

In 2007, the World Health Organization Report recounted 94.5 percent of Nauru’s inhabitants as being overweight and 71.7 as being obese. The life expectancy in Nauru is around 50, and Type II diabetes is more prevalent there than in any other place in the world. Most of the population now lives off of prefabricated food shipped from Australia.

Nauru has become dependent on foreign aid mainly from Australia, New Zealand and Japan. A Sydney University geosciences professor by the name of John Connell expressed his belief that the only long-run solution to this crisis is a complete relocation of Nauru’s inhabitants.

However, as of now, the nation is getting some of its income from selling passports to foreign nationals and taking in refugees other countries refuse. In hopes to help with the poverty in Nauru, in 2001, Australia set up the Nauru detention center and provided many of the nation’s inhabitants with jobs. In 2012, Australia set up a second facility, which sparked hope in hearts of the inhabitants — a hope for a better future.

Now that asylums are in high demand due to the excessive numbers of refugees, Nauru’s facilities have been in full swing; however, poverty in Nauru is still very much prevalent. Although it may seem like a dead end, it appears that Australia still insists on using Nauru’s detention center because it is refusing to admit more refugees. This nation’s unusual and destructive past has steered Nauru into an impasse, but the future of the small island still remains unclear.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr

environmentally friendly business
A group of friends envisioned an environmentally friendly business. They combined one friend’s knowledge of tree planting with the world’s desire for apparel, which is how Tentree was formed.

For every item purchased from the clothing line, 10 trees are planted. In an article published by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), the company measures its success not on profits but by how many trees they have planted.

Tentree’s website includes an interactive map which displays where the trees have been planted all over the world. As of September 2016, the company has planted 9,382,290 trees. The following is a list of countries and its respective number of trees planted:

  • Madagascar – 4,936,830
  • Senegal – 1,395,500
  • Nepal – 1,463,290
  • Ethiopia – 724,140
  • India – 135,800
  • Malawi – 225,000
  • Kenya – 149,540
  • Canada – 57,780
  • Haiti – 278,560
  • Cambodia – 10,290
  • United States – 5,000

The website includes information on what individual consumers’ trees accomplish for the world and community. Some important contributions made by trees that are highlighted include lifting water out of the soil, providing food for the local population, supplying oxygen to breathe and removing carbon dioxide from the air.

A village in Madagascar, Mahabana, has seen the largest number of trees planted and the greatest improvement from the program. Tentree started a project in the village with 40 people working to plant trees.

In an interview with Now This, Kalen Emsley, one of the co-founders of the company reports that the project has grown to over 450 people working full time, completely supported by Tentree.

The restoration of the ecosystem of mangrove trees has lead to a return in wildlife, a rebounding fishing industry and people have been able to start selling fruit.

According to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Tentree planted 7,000 trees in the Lac La Ronge Provincial Park along with the government in the province after forest fires ravaged parts of Saskatchewan.

The forest fires burned parts of the park in 2015. Tentree announced their plans to help replant trees at the Saskatchewan Fashion Week. They shipped donations of clothing people who were evacuated in the Fort McMurray wildfire this summer and are beginning to make plans for replanting in that area.

Tentree hopes their environmentally friendly business goes beyond helping the environment. They work with local and global nonprofit organizations to ensure prime results like WeForest, Canadian Wildlife Federation, Eden Reforestation, American Forests and Trees for the Future. They hire people from the local communities to grow, tend and plant the trees.

As stated on the Tentree website: “Every consumer that purchases a Tentree branded piece of clothing is showing their dedication to the values our team shares: environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and the hope for a brighter future.” Tentree hopes to make a lasting community, both locally and globally, with their environmentally friendly business of clothing and tree planting.

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr