Wales as a deforestation measure

If you were a teenager in the 1990s like me, and you went to school in the UK, there is a fair chance that in at least one geography lesson you were told by your teacher something like this: “Every year globally, an area the size of Wales is deforested”. At the time nobody in my class believed it and to this day I have no real idea if it was true of that time, or was instead one of those facts that got repeated lazily without any checking, simply because Wales as a country sounded quite big to teenage ears.

For perspective, Wales is 5.1346 million acres in size. When I was originally told the Wales deforestation “fact”, it must have been around 1992, so let’s assume the preceding 10 years were also the same circumstance. Let us also assume for now that every year since 1992 has been exactly the same for poor old Wales-sized forests (more on this in a moment). That would give us a time period of 1981-2020, so 40 years (which is nice and convenient for multiplication).

So, according the famous Wales example, that would be a total of 40 x 5.1346 million acres lost to deforestation. That is a staggering 205.384 million acres of forest hacked to the ground for firewood, tables, and clearances for growing soya beans and the like in the last 40 years. It is of course part of the widely acknowledged climate change problem that is sending Planet Earth ever closer to an impending meltdown.

Alarmingly, that 205 million or so acres may well be massively underselling what has happened. The UN estimate that 11.6 million acres of forest have been lost on a net basis each year since 2010, which itself becomes a mind-boggling 24.7 million acres each year if you ignore any replanting of previously cut-down forest.

Why on Earth am I rambling on about this? Well, there was an interesting article reported today by The Guardian about a chap who wants to tackle this issue. Well, actually, he wants to go a bit further than that and reverse the effects of global warming, which is quite a lofty aim.

According to Yishan Wong, founder and CEO of a climate-emergency response company called Terraformation, to prevent the effects of climate change all we need to do as a species is reforest 3 billion acres of land.

Yes, that is right: 3 billion acres. To get an idea of this kind of scale, the United States of America is 1.9 billion acres in size.

The Silicon Valley-funded Terraformation has raised $30 million dollars so far from investors, and a further $2 million dollars from crowdfunding so that it can pursue its forestation goals.

You kind of have to wish them every success with the project, but at the same time, it is a slightly mad vision for a business to have. They are basically saying they will save the planet. Setting 12-month KPIs for staff bonuses should be interesting: “Reduce average global temperature by 0.5 degrees Celsius”.


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