Protecting the 10 billion acres of remaining forests on earth and replanting many of those already lost are both essential for restoring the earth’s health. Since 2000, the earth’s forest cover has shrunk by 13 million acres each year, with annual losses of 32 million acres far exceeding the regrowth of 19 million acres. Restoring the earth’s tree and grass cover protects soil from erosion, reduces flooding and sequesters carbon.
Global deforestation is concentrated in the developing world. Tropical deforestation in Asia is driven primarily by the fast-growing demand for timber and increasingly by the expansion of oil palm plantations for fuel. In Latin America, the fast-growing markets for soybeans and beef are together squeezing the Amazon. In Africa, the culprit is mostly fuelwood gathering and land clearing for agriculture.
In recent years, the shrinkage of forests in tropical regions has released 2.2 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere annually. Meanwhile, expanding forests in the temperate regions are absorbing close to 700 million tons of carbon. On balance, therefore, some 1.5 billion tons of carbon are released into the atmosphere each year from forest loss, roughly one fourth as much as from fossil fuel burning.
Fortunately, there is a vast unrealized potential in all countries to lessen the various demands that are shrinking the earth’s forest cover. In industrial nations, the greatest opportunity lies in reducing the amount of wood used to make paper. The goal is first to reduce paper use and then to recycle as much as possible. The rates of paper recycling in the top 10 paper-producing countries range widely, but South Korea, which recycles an impressive 91 percent, stands out. If every country recycled as much of its paper as South Korea does, the amount of wood pulp used to produce paper worldwide would drop by more than one third.
In developing countries, the focus needs to be on reducing fuelwood use. Indeed, fuelwood accounts for just more than half of all wood removed from the world’s forests. Some international aid agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations Foundation, are sponsoring projects to increase fuelwood efficiency through the use of more efficient cookstoves. Over the longer term, pressure on forests can be reduced by replacing firewood with solar thermal cookers or even with electric hotplates powered with renewable energy.
One major challenge is to harvest forests responsibly. There are two basic approaches to timber harvesting. Clearcutting is environmentally devastating, leaving eroded soil and silted streams, rivers and irrigation reservoirs in its wake. The alternative is to selectively cut only mature trees, leaving the forest largely intact. This ensures that forest productivity can be maintained in perpetuity.
Forest plantations can reduce pressures on the earth’s remaining forests as long as they do not replace old-growth forest. As of 2010, the world had 652 million acres in planted forests, more than one third as much land as is planted in grain. Tree plantations produce mostly wood for paper mills or for wood reconstitution mills. Increasingly, reconstituted wood is substituted for natural wood as lumber and construction industries adapt to a shrinking supply of large logs from natural forests.
As tree farming expands, it is starting to shift geographically to the moist tropics, where yields are much higher. One hectare (2.47 acres) of forest plantation produces 4 cubic meters of wood per year in eastern Canada and 10 cubic meters in the southeastern U.S. But in Brazil, newer plantations are getting close to 40 cubic meters. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization projects that as plantation area expands and yields rise, the harvest could more than triple between 2005 and 2030. It is entirely conceivable that plantations could one day satisfy most of the world’s demand for industrial wood, thus helping protect the world’s remaining natural forests.
Although banning deforestation may seem far-fetched, environmental damage has pushed Thailand, the Philippines and China to implement partial or complete bans on logging. All three bans followed devastating floods and mudslides resulting from the loss of forest cover. In China, after suffering record losses from weeks of nonstop flooding in the Yangtze River basin in 1998, the government discovered that it simply did not make economic sense to continue deforesting. The flood control service of trees standing, they said, was three times as valuable as the timber from trees cut.
International environmental groups such as Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund have negotiated agreements to halt deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and in parts of Canada’s boreal forests. Daniel Nepstad and colleagues reported in Science in 2009 on two recent developments that together may halt deforestation in the Amazon basin. One is Brazil’s Amazon deforestation reduction target that was announced in 2008, which prompted Norway to commit $1 billion if there is progress toward this goal. The second is a marketplace transition in the beef and soy industries to avoid Amazon deforesters in their supply chains.
Finally, we need a tree planting effort to both conserve soil and sequester carbon. To achieve these goals, billions of trees need to be planted on millions of acres of degraded lands that have lost their tree cover and on marginal croplands and pasturelands that are no longer productive.
Recognizing the central role of forests in modulating climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has examined the potential for tree planting and improved forest management to sequester CO2. Since every newly planted tree seedling in the tropics removes an average of 50 kilograms of CO2 from the atmosphere each year during its growth period of 20–50 years, compared with 13 kilograms of CO2 per year for a tree in the temperate regions, much of the afforestation and reforestation opportunity is found in tropical countries.
This global forestation plan to remove atmospheric CO2 would need to be funded by the industrial countries that put most of it there. In comparison with other mitigation strategies, stopping deforestation and planting trees are relatively inexpensive. They pay for themselves many times over. An independent body could be set up to administer and monitor the vast tree planting initiative. The key is moving quickly to stabilize climate before temperature rises too high, thus giving these trees the best possible chance of survival.
There are already many tree planting initiatives proposed or under way. Kenya’s Nobel laureate, Wangari Maathai, who years ago organized women in Kenya and several nearby countries to plant 30 million trees, inspired the Billion Tree Campaign that initially was managed by the U.N. Environment Programme. Tree planting in now being tracked by the Plant for the Planet Foundation. The initial goal in 2006 was to plant 1 billion trees. If half of those trees survive, they will sequester 5.6 million tons of carbon per year. By the end of 2011, more than 12 billion trees had been planted.
Some countries reforest on their own. South Korea is in many ways a reforestation model for the rest of the world in this respect. When the Korean War ended half a century ago, the mountainous country was largely deforested, much as Haiti is today. Beginning around 1960, under the dedicated leadership of President Park Chung Hee, the South Korean government launched a national reforestation effort. Today forests cover nearly 65 percent of the country, an area of more than 15 million acres. While driving across South Korea in November 2000, it was gratifying to see the luxuriant stands of trees on mountains that a generation earlier were bare. We can reforest the earth.
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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