Near where I live in Queens, New York, there are a few streets lined with large trees that form a majestic, arterial canopy above. Gazing up, it looks like the walls of a heart, branches spidering in a measured climb.

Trees in Queens.jpg

Whenever I walk down one of these streets, I instantly feel calm. I look at the curving paths of the leafy branches and the dappled light on the street and feel renewed in the shade.

And, according to science, I’m literally renewed when I walk by and under these trees.

Just looking at a tree promotes calm. Scientifically speaking, trees reduce stress and make you healthier.

It’s no wonder when you think about it.

Trees allow all life on Earth to occur. They provide oxygen for us all, absorb harmful gases such as carbon and methane, provide habitats for animals and promote general biodiversity. Trees provide food, conserve water, offer protection, cool areas, control water and wind erosion and they filter and perfume the air.

They’re also fascinating to look at.  

If the world wants to achieve the Global Goals, trees can’t be taken for granted. More specifically, forests have to be protected and expanded.

According to the UN, forests will play a “‘decisive role’ in ending hunger, improving livelihoods and combating climate change” in the years to come.

But this role can be maximized or minimized depending on how humanity responds to deforestation.

Amazon rain forest in BrazilImage: Flickr: CIAT

Since 1990, as many trees as the size of South Africa have been chopped down. Although the rate of deforestation has slowed by 50% in that period, much still has to be done.

The good news is that countries are unifying to protect forests. Legislation is being enacted to protect large swaths of forests and countries are better grasping the urgency of the need to protect them.

Since 1990, more than 150 million hectares (1 hectare = 10,000 sq. meters) of forest have been set aside for conservation.

Around 13% of the world’s forests--524 million hectares--are set aside for conservation.

Countries are adopting better forest management practices partly because they're also connecting the dots between trees and economic growth.

Forests contribute $600 billion to global GDP annually and enable 50 million jobs, which makes their conservation even more vital.

The countries with the most forest are: Russia, Brazil, Canada, United States and China.

Although climate change is accelerating, the expanded protections for trees have reduced carbon emissions from forests by 25% from 2001-2015.

On the flipside, climate change is posing a major threat to forests worldwide. In the western US, for instance, millions of acres of trees have been wiped out by pests that have been unleashed by rising temperatures.

It’s interesting to note that forest fires are usually a good thing for forests, because they create fertile environments for regrowth.

So protecting forests will take more than conserving land. It will require the world to actively guide the conditions that allow trees to thrive.

While trees planted on a sidewalk are obviously not a forest, they are still a step in the right direction.

Trees should be planted and nurtured everywhere. After all, a future without poverty is a future full of leaves.

To get to this future, world leaders have to support the Global Goals. You can go to TAKE ACTION NOW to encourage leaders to take bold steps to support the Goals. 


Defend the Planet

A future without poverty is a future full of leaves

By Joe McCarthy