Healthy Trees, Healthy Environment, Healthy People
Here at ForestPlanet we strive to focus on the many benefits of trees in general, and also report on specific tree planting activities and accomplishments. After a successful fundraiser here in DC in late February we’re now up to 150K trees planted, and plan to keep building on that momentum. The current public health situation will slow our efforts of course, and curb the activities and progress of the majority of the world’s population, but we press on.
We’ve discussed many of the benefits of trees, with emphasis on their low cost and fast rate of implementation, and these include: soil regeneration, local ecology restoration, financial support for communities in peril, and, of course, reducing global greenhouse gas concentration. Meanwhile, other writers and reports have focused on the public health benefits of trees. While the connection between clean water, in sufficient quantities, and public health is obvious, and has been mentioned previously, we defer to epidemiologists and other medical professionals for a more focused discussion.
A New York Times article from 2012, titled ‘The Ecology of Disease’, looked at numerous past outbreaks and made connections with the local ecology. One referenced study showed than “an increase in deforestation by 4% increased the incidence of malaria by nearly 50%”, due to enhanced breeding conditions for disease-carrying mosquitoes. Sobering.
Meanwhile, the EcoHealth Alliance, an international nonprofit dedicated to a ‘One Health’ approach to protecting the health of people, animals and the environment, is more definitive. They have been studying the connection between healthy ecologies and public health for decades, noting that “nearly half of the spread of emerging infectious diseases like SARS, Nipah, and Ebola is attributable to land-use change.” Massive deforestation definitely qualifies as “land-use change.”
No one is suggesting that tree planting is a ‘silver bullet’ solution to climate change, or all of our public health woes, but it’s an easy and cost effective place to start. The benefits are both localized and broad-based, and at 15 cents per tree quite affordable given the alternatives.
For example, ForestPlanet continues to support a particular reforestation project in the Usambara Mountains region of Tanzania, where over 46,000 trees were planted on this one hillside:
The time lapse between these two photos is just three years, and much happened in that period:
- The local wells that had started to run dry are being replenished, since the new trees immediately started channeling a portion of the natural rainfall into the underground aquifers
- The new trees helped hold the soil in place on the hillside, allowing the local farmers to intercrop potatoes and maize between the trees for the first two years
- These crops helped provide income and food security for the local communities
- After three years some of the trees that were grafted with avocado and orange limbs started to bear nutritious fruit.
If we also count the ~25,000 tons of CO2 that this particular project will sequester over the lifetime of the trees, never mind the public health benefits of clean water and nutritious diets, it adds up to a win-win-win-win-win situation.
ForestPlanet remains committed to continuing our outreach and fundraising efforts to support tree planting programs like the one above. We are encouraged by the large and small contributions that are made daily to improve public health on a global level, and your participation is greatly appreciated.