October 5, 2023
Forests offer a natural solution to the climate crisis. Conserving and restoring them not only removes carbon from the atmosphere but also protects and fosters biodiversity. Unfortunately, recent elite-driven reforestation initiatives have fostered few forests. Climate change induced wildfires have torched many forests, and deforestation through agricultural expansion has continued relentlessly in many regions of the world. Against this grim backdrop, observers like Bill McKibben have called for military-like mobilizations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Reforesting the Earth describes how people in the forest sector have begun to mobilize across a wide range of settings. Coalitions of diverse actors, organized through corporatist political processes, have emerged within landscape sectors. Alliances of wealthy donors, indigenous peoples, small farmers, NGO personnel, and government officials have concerted their efforts to protect, restore, and expand forests in varied ways. Farmers have limited the extent of lands under cultivation and permitted trees to repopulate pastures. Government officials have strengthened forest-protecting land tenure among smallholders. Wealthy donors have made payments to protect forests. Through a series of case studies, Reforesting the Earth offers a guide to scaling up these efforts to sequester carbon. In so doing, it makes a powerful case for a global reforestation movement.
Thomas K. Rudel is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Human Ecology and Sociology at Rutgers University. His latest book, Reforesting the Earth: The Human Drivers of Forest Conservation, Restoration, and Expansion (2023) is available now from Columbia University Press.