International Day of Forests: Discover the Green Technology Fighting Deforestation

Forests cover just about a third of our planet’s land mass and are home to 80% of all terrestrial species. According to WWF, three hundred million people live in forests, with another 1.6 billion depending on them for their livelihoods. Despite how crucial forests 

are to life on Earth, an area the size of Panama is destroyed each year: that’s 150 acres every minute.

Science and technology haven’t always been friendly to our forests. Urbanisation and widespread use of fossil fuels have damaged the natural world, but now STEM is increasingly being used to boost conservation and reforestation across the globe.

Global Forest Watch (GFW) is an online forest-monitoring system, providing real-time updates from anywhere in the world. Users of GFW apps can create maps and upload data of forests near them, keeping track of events like illegal logging and forest fires. GFW is currently used in twelve countries and is accessible to all those with an interest in preventing deforestation, from conservation groups to governments and global corporations. Through technologies like these, which allow people from opposite ends of the Earth to communicate instantly, the opportunities for globally-orchestrated initiatives to fight deforestation have never been better.

Photography by Thomas Ledl

Thanks to advances in STEM, people are living longer and more comfortable lives. However, the resulting growth in population and urban spaces leads to deforestation. Stefano Boeri’s Bosco Verticale, or “vertical forest”, sets out to change that. This architectural project is designed to incorporate forests into urban areas. Boeri’s two tower-blocks are not only home to the residents of the apartments within, but to 900 trees, 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 floral plants, creating almost 10 acres of biological habitat in the centre of Milan. Increasing biodiversity, lowering pollution and maximising living-space for people and plants, Bosco Verticale has recently been embraced by Chinese developers, who aim to build two similar towers in Nanjing.

Initiatives like Stefano Boeri’s towers show us that the way we choose to live can affect our environment, but what happens after we die? Nobody on earth can survive without forests, and the way we deal with death can potentially cause unforeseen destruction to the environment. Cremation contributes to pollution and global warming, whilst graveyards eat up natural landscapes. However, several companies have developed eco-friendly solutions to cemetery overcrowding in recent years.

The Bios Urn is entirely biodegradable, combining ashes with a seed destined to grow into a memorial tree, healing the pollution caused by cremation and bringing new life from death. Similarly, Capsula Mundi produce burial pods which are designed to provide nourishment for a young sapling, marked by a GPS tracker so loved ones can visit whenever they like. Through initiatives like these, graveyards would become forests: places of birth and rejuvenation as well as remembrance, where a person’s last act can be to help preserve our world for future generations.

These are just a few of the many and varied scientific solutions tackling deforestation. With eco technology increasingly hailed as a new era for STEM innovation, it looks like the future isn’t just bright- it’s green.

Tess Gallacher 

Date published: 
March 21, 2017