We are not the Lorax. But we speak for the trees anyway.
There have been a number of disturbing papers published recently about re-afforestation. These have suggested that we need to be careful about where we plant trees, that we might even not want to plant trees in some places, and that there are rules for wise tree planting.
We would like here to restore the balance of affairs and put trees in their proper place, which, lets face it, is just about anywhere on the planet. The Earth may be molten in the middle, but Gaia is wooden at her core. Trees are the highest life form. The fact that evolution did not stop there was the result of truly selfish actions by some renegade genes which are now profoundly sorry for their misbehaviour. There is only one rule for tree-planting: if it’s a tree, then plant it.
To avoid confusion, we’d like to define what we mean by ‘tree’. (And you know how bad a debate is when you have to write such a sentence). A tree, to be clear, is a tall plant with a trunk and branches, and generally woody. Amongst other things, it is not a human. It does not cut itself down. A tree is a thing which a human isn’t. And, ergo, if you can see a tree occupying a space then a person is not in that same space. They are mutually exclusive (despite what we may have said in a previous column).
It follows from this (we are almost somewhat certain) that places with lots of trees should not have people. ‘Forest-dwelling people’ is, therefore, an oxymoron, and has as little chance of succeeding as a proton and an antiproton sharing a motel room. All this talk about talking to people about where forests should grow just proliferates a myth that is nothing like true forest at all.
To avoid confusion, we would like to direct readers to recent welcome attempts published in the highest quality journals, including the Great One whose ‘I’s we are not worthy to dot, which have begun to hint at the true miracles that might be possible were we seriously to get serious about tree planting. Indeed, the only thing wrong with these authors’ plans is that they do not go far enough. They omit a host of places where trees could, and should, be planted in order more effectively to sequester carbon. These are:
1.Trees in lakes, and trees in seas: If you look at any map of the world then the obvious constraint to a world covered in forests is that far too much of it is covered in water. And the obvious, and if we may say so, ingenious, response to this is to plant trees which are more water and salt tolerant. It won’t be too difficult, we just need taller mangrove trees. We have recently patented the idea of crossing a mangrove with a redwood and expect to be planting forests right up to the edge of the continental shelf.
2. Antarctic trees: Antarctica is a huge wasted tree-planting opportunity. It’s a massive continent which has shown a rather lazy preference to grow ice, when it should be growing trees. Fortunately, current global warming trends mean that we should be able to get a healthy plantation of Scots pine growing their fairly soon. A bit of gene splicing with polar bears or penguins (Ed – which is the one that lives down there?) should make them more tolerant.
3. Trees in space: We have been lax about terraforming nearby planets to house us in due course and trees are obviously the best way of doing this. And think how much carbon the moon could absorb once we worked out how to get it there.
4. Trees on trees: The prevailing philosophy seems to be that once you’ve planted a tree and it is growing, then your job is done. But what about all that extra space created by trees when they grow? Again, with appropriate gene editing other trees could be encouraged to plant themselves on each other and grow sideways of their fellows. We’d just need to make sure they were evenly positioned for balance. Currently trees themselves are being rather selfish about this. They tend to dominate space, and compete for light, rather than sharing it. But with a bit of group therapy for the aggressive species, and new thermal powered, LED UV ground-lighting, forests could be lit from anywhere, and tree space extend some 2–3 kilometres into the sky.
5. Trees in motion: One of the main problems with trees is that they simply refuse to move. An evolutionary glitch in an otherwise excellent conception. Once again, through appropriate gene therapy, we believe that trees that can shuffle around the neighbourhood, and occupy football fields and vacant lots when they are not being used. Why, some could learn to fly, flapping away with large leaves— imagine a flock of trees soaring above, munching away at all that Carbon in our atmosphere.
Conservation is sometimes accused of inventing the landscapes and places it wants to exist. Conservationists conserve their idea of what things should look like, rather than the living, evolving landscapes that exist.
And what a load of cobblers that base and foolish accusation is! As should be plainly apparent in our wise words above, conservation is about restoring things that were lost back to their proper state. We could not be more confident that when trees once more rule the planet—as in the great golden Carboniferous age, before the Mesozoic came along and ruined everything—then we will have restored the greatest forest ever to have ruled.