Imagining the Future

What could the world look like in the year 2050?

One possible wedge: reforestation. When trees grow, they use carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to grow, storing lots of it in their trunks. When they die and fall, it's recycled by decomposers or compressed into fossil - which is where we get coal. One of the reasons for climate change is that the deforestation of the world - which has been occurring ever since humans started living in cities - has meant fewer trees and plants to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. If we plant more trees - on the scale of millions, if not billions of trees - then the Earth will be able to cope with the gas we're pumping out.

So what will it look like?

True old-growth forests are rare these days - in Europe, only one real, ancient forest exists; the Białowieża Forest, straddling the Polish-Belarus border. Given time, we may be able to walk through forests like this everywhere, in nationally protected sites - a day's trip from our cities and towns.

But we'll need to go further - a complete reimagining of our cities. In time, we'll find a way to blend nature and urban life together. Someday, we'll find that we can't just set land aside for parks - we'll have to bring nature to our sidewalk, drive-way, and roof, maybe even into our living room.

And the benefits will be enormous - not in numbers, such-and-such carbon dioxide sequestered, polls of happiness rising, heating and cooling money saved - but in our psyche. Those of us who live in cities can feel how we've pushed the natural world to the side, even as we depend on it more than ever. How many of us have walked the fields where our food is grown, or through the forests the gave wood to our homes?

In some human part of us, we know that we need to maintain a connection to the Earth. We take vacations, camp, hike - even stare out the window on long drives past the wilderness. Maybe someday we'll find that we don't have to leave our neighborhood to find what we're missing - and some day after that, we'll find we don't even have to move.

Where do we start?

Just by planting flowers and trees.

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