Welcome to the second article in our reforestation series. In the previous piece, we introduced you to the notion of “lies to children” and some common misunderstandings most people believe about Punnett squares, air pollution, and oxygen and carbon in the environment. Ultimately, we made the point that reforestation is not a climate cure-all. Trees do not “make” our oxygen. But — to paraphrase Dr. Fauci in an early pandemic-era conference — when waging war, we need to use every weapon available, even the smaller ones. Today, we’re addressing both the benefits and practical downfalls of different reforestation options. We’ll explore some interesting ideas, from freshwater requirements to acreage limits.
Then, we’ll talk about where the money will be made. We’ll speak of carbon offset credits, new opportunities in tech, and logging *cough*, we mean selective old growth harvesting.
But first, we need to think about industrialization and deforestation and how reforestation plays a part in that game.
Deforestation: How Industrialization Changed the Planet
Imagine the pre-industrialized world just 250 years ago. People farmed, hunted, and fished for their food. We grew and traded raw materials, and everyone went to bed at night when the sun went down rather than waste our precious candles or oil lanterns.
We’re not trying to romanticize our history. It may have been a simpler time, but it was also far more dangerous.
We didn’t know about:
- Antibiotics like penicillin
- The importance of hygiene
- Or how diseases spread
The average life expectancy was about 35 years, infant mortality rates were high, and up to 29% of women died in childbirth.
Industrialization Changed All That
Industrialization changed all of that for the better. It became much easier to grow and harvest food, weave fabrics, develop medicines, and share all those things around the world.
In the last 200 years, our life expectancy has doubled, infant mortality has improved, and only 1% to 2% of women die giving birth. Hooray for us, but as our population blooms, so do our requirements for food, medicines, and so on.
More land is dedicated to agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and storage every year. We tear down forests to create room for our homes and factory farming operations.
Pollution Caused by Industrialization Quickly Became Problematic
Our air and water quality quickly diminished in the last two centuries. We started to take notice in the 1970s, and that’s when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in the US. Over the next 50 years, we attempted to address the problems. And without getting into the minutiae, we’ve come a long way.
The focus is on creating a net zero carbon reality and how different reforestation options may help achieve that goal.
Reforestation Options Today
Onetreeplanted.org says, “Reforestation helps the environment by guaranteeing or accelerating the re-establishment of healthy forest structure by regrowing the forest canopy and preserving biodiversity within the ecosystem.”
Furthermore, per Onetreeplanted.org, each tree planted:
- Helps carbon sequestration
- Removes air pollutants
- Prevents soil erosion by growing roots that hold the soil together
- Offers habitat for tree-dwelling flora and fauna
- Reduces ambient air temperatures (there is a lot of conflicting information on this point, though)
- Reduces the impact of global warming and climate change
- Helps to protect endangered species
- Prevents floods, erosion, and landslides (we believe this is due to the root structure, not because trees can process absorb water fast enough to stop a landslide)
Reforestation also creates opportunities for pharmaceutical development and human recreation.
From a Corporate Perspective: Reforestation Carbon Credits/Carbon Offset Credits
Reforestation carbon credits are credits or certificates issued by governments or organizations, so green-minded corporations can claim they’ve done their best to offset emissions by planting trees or supporting organizations that cultivate them.
Carbon credits cover emissions from purchasing land for reforestation projects or planting new trees in old-growth forest areas. Supposedly, tree planting helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the density of trees in existing forests. (Check out our last article for more details on that reality.)
Reforestation carbon credits can prove that an organization is environmentally responsible, which is great for branding in the public eye. Investing in reforestation options like this is also great for a company’s bottom line. That’s why reforestation is becoming so popular with carbon credit ETFs, carbon capture stocks, and other eco-friendly market trading.
But to work, knowing which offsets do the most good for the planet is crucial.
For instance, there’s a difference between afforestation and reforestation carbon credits. Planting trees is positive for the environment, but forest carbon offsets can only be effective in a specific way and for the long term.
Plus, It’s an Ongoing Issue
Forest preservation is a huge deal. But, if you read our first piece in this series, you know that reforestation efforts must continue ad infinitum to be effective because trees are mortal, too. Planting one new generation of trees today is helpful for various reasons. But eventually, all trees die. So these efforts must continue forever, or we’re back to square one.
How Forest Carbon Offset Credits Work
Companies that are known polluters can purchase carbon credits from reforestation projects and claim they’re reducing their emissions. If they buy more credits than needed, they can sell them on an international market for a profit. Carbon credits are issued by entities that have set aside land or planted trees to sequester carbon dioxide (CO2).
Who’s Playing the Game?
Well-known organizations currently buying carbon offset credits include:
- Alphabet (Google)
There are many familiar names on the list! Chances are, you do business with many of these organizations in a given week.
How Much Does It Cost to Play the Game?
The cost of carbon offset credits will vary based on supply and demand, and it’s affected most by government policies. According to 8billiontrees.com, you can expect to pay $40 to $80 per metric ton in 2023. (A metric ton is a little more than 2204 lbs, or about 10% more than a standard ton.)
This price is significantly higher than the 2021 average of $12.70 per metric ton. Prices have increased sharply since the 2020 United Nations Paris Agreement. If you’re looking to play this game, you’ll need to keep a close eye on international policies like this.
Individual Investors Are Welcome
Still, even in the $40 to $80 realm, individual investors can get involved with carbon offset credit trading. Do a few internet searches for carbon offset credit trading, buy low, and sell high. These credits aren’t ideal for long-term investing or retirement planning. You’ll need to be an active investor. Also, every nation has a cap on the number of credits that can be held in it. As the game evolves and more organizations start to play, you’ll need to act fast to get your share. But you can get in this game with a few grand.
There are other ways Americans can play this game, too. While the bulk of new reforestation projects is happening in rainforests in Africa and South America, there is plenty of plantable land in the US. If you’re a landowner looking to capitalize on reforestation, you’ll need to stay on top of the newest reforestation tech.
Reforestation Options and New Technology
Reforestation sounds easy. Plant some trees and walk away, right? The reality is more complicated.
Little baby trees — saplings — need a lot of clean water. Depending on the topography and the weather, landowners may need to invest in irrigation systems. There is room in this space for new irrigation tech ideas, so investors and inventors can surely play here, too.
Aqua4D recently made headlines as a provider of water-efficient irrigation systems in Chile. They’re working on a 15,000-acre project, delivering water to each sapling, testing the soil, and reporting results to the Chilean government. Wasted water equals wasted resources, and no one wants that.
Logging Opportunities *cough* We Mean “Old Growth Removal”
“Logging” sounds like a dirty, environmentally unsound idea — especially in an article about reforestation. But new saplings need plenty of sunshine and room, and old growth removal is vital for reforestation to work. Landowners must remove old growth every few years and sell that wood. Instead of logging, we’ll call it “selective harvesting” and act like that’s a new, more environmentally-friendly idea.
A New Space for Electric Equipment Is Opening
As we move away from fossil fuels, there’s room for electric logging equipment and wood processing ideas. Does it sound like a fire hazard? Absolutely! But we never said logging was safe. And if we never pose the problem, we’ll never find the answer.
We’re still a few years away from electric log haulers, but chippers and processors should be right around the corner.
Ultimately, these reforestation options may not be the climate cure-all many people believe it is. But there’s plenty of money to be made in this new sector, and these opportunities could last for a few hundred years.
Related Reading & Resources About Today’s Reforestation Options:
Ourworldindata.org: Maternal Mortality
Whitehouse.gov: Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis
Kirkcoburn.com: The Hopeful Future of Carbon Trading (How the Rich Get Much Richer)
Visualcapitalist.com: Visualizing the World’s Loss of Forests Since the Ice Age
8billiontrees.com: Forest Carbon Offsets: Reforestation Carbon Credits, Tree Planting