According to NASA satellites, the Earth is a little greener than it was 20 years ago. The surplus of greenery comes from two of the most populous countries, India and China.
This new study was published in the journal Nature Sustainability, which reported that global green leaf areas have increased by five percent around the world since the start of the new millennium.
This increase in greenery is comparable to the entire Amazon rainforest.
Researchers came to this conclusion by comparing maps produced by two satellites from 2000 and 2017.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) gives researchers high-resolution data along with detailed imagery so that they can see all of the details of Earth, including vegetation.
“China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9 percent of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation … That is a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation,” explained lead author of the study Chi Chen from Boston University.
The majority of this greenery comes from India and China, with a quarter of new growth originating in China.
This occurred as a result of the People’s Republic of China launching an ambitious eco-friendly campaign in the 1990s to combat all of the pollution produced by the leading supplier of manufacturing.
Just think about how much stuff is manufactured in China each year, this creates a whirlwind of pollution. Pair that with little to no regulation and free-market reforms, and it’s truly impressive what China has been able to accomplish in the fight back.
So, how did they do it? They launched a massive campaign to plant more trees and called on citizens and soldiers to plant trees as part of their civic duty. This led to a 40% increase in greenery.
Massive stretches of desert land were turned into greenery. Much of the massive Kubuqi Desert, which was once regarded as the “Sea of Death,” has since been transformed into a lush forest.
Tian Qingyun has been working as a forest ranger for 37 years and took part in the project to expand greenery in the Kubuqi Desert. When he first arrived on site there was nothing more than a sea of blowing sand that blocked their vision.
“To rein in the desert, the local government decided to encircle it with trees and grass,” then they “cut the desert into half by building a 100-km-long highway and then tackling the sand patch by patch,” Qingyun explained.
It was once known as the “sea of death”, but after decades of greening, it’s now famed for the “Kubuqi model” that tamed one of China’s most formidable deserts. #desertification pic.twitter.com/07Orh6iZM0
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) August 6, 2018
“It was very difficult to tame the desert.” He goes on to explain some of the trials they experienced along the way.
Just a few months after planting over 300 hectares of desert willow trees, a huge wind storm blew through the area. They were devastated to see over 70 percent of the saplings had been uprooted by a single sandstorm.
They didn’t give up. Since then, one third of the once barren wasteland has been turned into forestland.
Greenery is great for many reasons – it helps contain flooding and regulates large quantities of carbon dioxide which are constantly released into the atmosphere.
In India, the added greenery comes from an increase in crop cultivation. Agricultural expansion represents 82% of the new greenery in India. In China, only 23% of new greenery is represented by the expansion of agricultural land.
Both China and India have increased agricultural efforts in an attempt to feed their growing and urbanizing populations.
India broke a record for planting the most trees in 2017 – they planted 66 million saplings in around 12 hours.
Reforestation efforts like this are hugely important to the future of our planet. Especially considering human activities produce insane amounts of carbon emissions for short-term gains at long-term costs to our environment.
As the largest producer of greenhouse gases, China is in great need of even more greenery.
This report gives us hope but we still have a lot of work to do, and some things to worry about. For instance, natural vegetation loss in tropical regions could impact biodiversity and long-term health of green landscapes.
Furthermore, scientists are concerned that the loss or pollution of groundwater in India could bring agricultural efforts to a halt. Luckily, people are realizing more than ever how much work needs to be done to reverse the problem and they are acting on it.
You can help be a part of the solution by simply planting some trees!