As we all know, the joys of tree-planting exist beyond activist groups. Anyone can join in on the fun — from entire villages to drones. Even your not-so-usual suspects can be pretty eager to give back. Such is the case with 60,000 Chinese troops, all of whom are reforesting 84,000 square kilometers of land.
The armed police force has a specially designated forestry branch to patrol and exercise jurisdiction in forested areas such as the northeastern Greater Khingan mountain range – dubbed ‘China’s green lungs’ – in Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia provinces.
China’s current forest coverage lies at a measly 21%, which the People’s Liberation Army hopes to bump up to 23 by 2020. In this year alone, the Chinese government aims to overlay an ambitious 6.66 million hectares of land.
Heavily polluted Hebei province, which encircles Beijing, has pledged to raise its total forest coverage to 35% by the end of 2020, and the bulk of the troops pulled back from the frontlines will be dispatched there.
China is notorious for its dense amounts of smog and futile efforts to combat them with jars of air. Perhaps this route, along with other air purification methods, may be the best one to take.
You can never go wrong with tree-planting. It is popular in India, where natives planted 66 million seedlings in record time. In Burma, engineering groups are using drones to restore forests. However, tree-planting in the Gobi desert is addressing a more urgent matter — desertification. In order to address erosion and degradation, the Chinese government is working on building a giant wall of trees, otherwise known as the Green Great Wall.
By 2050, the government intends to plant 88 million acres of forests in a belt nearly 3,000 miles long and up to 900 miles wide in places.
As a country swallowed by deserts and that is oddly skilled in wall-building, the project makes sense. Over the years, it has stabilized deserts and reduced the frequency of sandstorms. However, it has faced backlash. Most of the trees are planted in areas they don’t grow naturally and eventually die out. Thousands of farmers have been forced off their land to make way for trees.
“Combating sand is the [government’s] project, so it has deep political meaning. There are bureaucrats in every province and county. They get a lot of money for planting trees.”
There is no denying that the scheme is problematic, despite being well-intentioned. While a Green Great Wall may seem the easiest solution, perhaps we ought to be smarter about where we plant our trees.
The humble drone — a handy tool for both aspiring and professional filmmakers and now a staple in medical emergencies. Inhabitants of Irrawaddy River are also fans, as tree-planting drones are restoring their forests thousands of seeds at a time.
The drones, from the startup BioCarbon Engineering, can plant as many as 100,000 trees in a single day, leaving the local community to focus on taking care of the young trees that have already started to grow.
Mapping drones first gather data on an area’s topography and soil quality. A second set of drones then follow the custom map, planting seeds in pods. Machines can plant up to 100,000 seeds a day.
In Myanmar (also known as Burma) the technology will be tweaked to best handle local conditions. Mangrove trees grow in brackish water along coastlines, so the drones will have to successfully shoot the seed pods underwater.
Mangroves protect Myanmar coastlines from storms and provide fish with habitats to grow. Combining the trees with crops could also help locals by means of an income.
The project is a prime example of the positive collaboration between humans and technology. If you were in over your head about robots taking our place in the workforce, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate.