Aug 28, 2022

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SAVING THE EARTH, ONE TREE AT A TIME

This is our last chance to save this planet. What we do in this decade defines the future existence of our civilization.

Deepjyoti Nath, CEO of City Robotics, likes to get away from the hustle and bustle of Warsaw city on weekends. He’s a wanderlust soul with a strong desire to explore less trodden parts of the wilderness all around Poland. But when he had to drive nearly 4 hours to visit Białowieża National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the last and largest surviving parts of the vast primeval forest that once stretched across the European Plain, a question arose in his mind – “Why does someone need to travel so far to experience such a wonder of nature?”

Białowieża National Park

It is a well-known fact that the forest cover around the world’s major cities has been dwindling rapidly. Urbanization, agricultural expansion, and increasing demand for housing spaces have led to widespread deforestation. The extent of this deforestation can be surveyed on Global Forest Watch, an online platform for monitoring forests around the world. According to the data collected by them, the world had 3.92Gha of tree cover in 2010, extending over 30% of its land area. In 2020, a loss of 25.8Mha of tree cover was reported. (1)

Global climate change is the most pressing concern in today’s world. It is affecting national economies and disrupting lives all across the planet. The raging forest fires, sudden flash floods, increased draughts, rising sea levels and extreme heat the world has witnessed in the last few years are standing proof of the seriousness of climate change. Afforestation is being hailed as one of the simplest and easiest ways to fight climate change. As trees grow, they absorb the carbon dioxide emissions, a major greenhouse gas driving global heating. Trees also aid in mitigating climate change by storing carbon and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. It has also been suggested that the presence of forests near cities can solve the severe water shortage problems of major cities. (2)

Deepjyoti, who hails from Assam in the north-eastern part of India has witnessed first-hand the adverse effects rapid deforestation can cause. The abundant forests of Assam are considered one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world and form 3.88% of the total forest cover of India. With the rapid urbanization of Assam in the last decade, 17.8kha of its natural forest cover has been lost (3). This consequently led to frequent floods, soil erosion, landslides, extinction of rare flora and fauna, air pollution, and rising temperatures. Thus, from a young age, Deepjyoti knew that something had to be done about this situation if we are to save the world, we live in.

So, in an attempt to take the first step in this direction, City Robotics has partnered up with “Las Na Zawsze” to invest in planting forests. Las Na Zawsze, which translates to “Forest Forever” is a non-profit organization in Poland committed to fighting deforestation. City Robotics, in partnership with Las Na Zawsze, has pledged to plant 10m² of forest every month, and 100m² of forest for each sale of their robot.

Their goal is to plant forests that have the capacity to grow and regenerate themselves naturally. No interference will be done with the growth of the plant species after they are planted. The planting process will be ecologically balanced, without the use of any biocides. Preference will be given to planting indigenous species, to make the forests more biodiverse and therefore more resistant to environmental factors. A forest ecosystem will be built by including shrubs, undergrowth plants, and fungi in addition to large trees. No trees will be cut down, and no dead trees or plants will be removed as many species thrive on them. The forest will also aim to restore the natural habitat of various indigenous animal and bird species. Natural selection will ensure that a healthy forest ecosystem develops in the long term. City Robotics plans to start this initiative in Poland first and then continue to the farthest corners of the earth.

A study at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, published in 2019, calculated for the first time how much land area is still available for planting trees without intruding on cropland or urban areas. The investigation found that there are presently 1.7 billion hectares of treeless land which could support 1.2 trillion tree saplings naturally. The area is equivalent to the size of the US and China combined, and about 11% of all land area on earth. The research also estimated that a worldwide planting program could absorb massive amounts of carbon dioxide emissions from human activities, that remain in the atmosphere. (4)

Professor Thomas Crowther, who led the study, reported the results to be “mind-blowing.” However, he emphasized that although forest restorations could play a part in tackling climate change, this plan needs to be acted on fast as any newly planted forests would take 50–100 years to mature and achieve their full potential. Crowther further added that planting trees is the cheapest and easiest solution in which anyone can take part. Every individual could make a concrete impact by growing trees themselves, donating to forest restoration organizations, and avoiding negligent companies. (5)

Tree planting initiatives have already been taken up by various individuals, organizations, and nations. The Bonn Challenge, sponsored by 48 nations, which aims at rehabilitating 350m hectares of forest by 2030 has been rather slow in progress.

Inspiring stories of various individuals and environment activists taking matters into their own hands and planting trees have come to light in the last few decades. People from different nations like Jadav Payeng from India, Adrien Taylor from New Zealand, Felix Finkbeiner from Germany, and Sebastião and Lélia Salgado from Brazil are some pioneer environmentalists who have planted millions of trees.

Deepjyoti and City Robotics aims to follow the example of these pioneers and make a difference in this world. Deepjyoti believes, “Nature is not something to be found only in conserved spaces far away from cities. Our cities need to be sustainable cities that contain green spaces within them. Recognizing how green infrastructure can be beneficial to urban dwellers is important.”

Trip to Białowieża National Park

He emphasized that in addition to fighting climate change, planting trees has other practical benefits. They offer cooling shade, block cold winter winds, attract birds and wildlife, check soil erosion, purify the air and water, contribute to the economy and food security, and add grace and beauty to the urban homes and communities.

The condition of our planet is devastating, and this rate of destruction simply cannot be allowed to continue. Our governments have failed us. The big corporations have failed us. It is high time we human beings take responsibility for the ruination of our beautiful planet and strive to fix it as much as possible. This is our last chance to save this planet. What we do in this decade defines the future existence of our civilization,” he says.

Deepjyoti further adds, “We plan to grow natural forests in every corner of this earth so our future generations do not have to drive 4 hours to visit a forest but will live 15 minutes from one”.

An old native American proverb goes, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”. It means that we are only the caretakers of this beautiful planet for our future generations. But at the rate humans are selfishly exploiting this planet, nothing will be left for future generations. Rapidly dwindling forest cover all over the world is proof of this. The greed of human beings has paved the way for severe climate change. Deforestation being one of the root causes of climate change, needs to be dealt with swiftly. City Robotics plans to take part in this restoration wholeheartedly by investing in planting 100m² of forest for every robot sold. These naturally grown forests will serve only nature, not the economy. The company hopes that by this endeavour, they will be able to make a difference in saving this planet. After all, trees do not need us, we need them.

Support us to grow a forest together, this is our last chance.
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