Our planet is getting greener than it was 20 years ago.

Apparently China and India are to take most of the credit for NASA´s good newsContrary to the perception of China and India's readiness to overexploit water, land and resources for economic gain, these two have been leading the largest greening of the planet since 2000.

They are the two most populated countries and have implemented ambitious tree planting programs at the same time they have scaled up their technology around agriculture. India keeps breaking tree planting world records. In 24 hours with 8 hundred thousand Indians planting as many as 50 million trees.

How to explain this phenomenon?

NASA´s recent finding was published in the Nature Sustainability journal. Using satellite data from the mid-1990s to last year and using high-resolution imagery they were able to stablish a comparative analysis.

To get a detailed picture of Earth´s global vegetation throughout time NASA used Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). This technique supplied up to 500-meter resolution for the last 20 years.

Such significant increase of greening around the planet was puzzling researchers at first. It was not clear what has cause more plant to grow. There were factors such as a warming planet, a wetter climate or increased carbon dioxide (CO2). Yet the question remained. What could have caused this phenomenon?

Is it all because of climate change?

Further investigation of the satellite imagery gave the researchers more information. They found that greening was mostly located in China and India. Logically if the greening should be primarily a response from a warming planet and climate change, the large amounts of vegetation should not be limited to a specific country. Furthermore, regions with higher latitude should become greener much faster than lower latitudes.

The information presented in the report rates each country by the total change in vegetation percent in decades. The United States is number 7. This indicator of course does not measure the previous levels of forestry and vegetation of each country. It can only measure the variation form one decade to the next. For example, a country that kept most of their forests and vegetation intact would not have increased its percent vegetation instead, a country with high levels of deforestation would have more room to grow.

Why India and China?

During the 1970 and 1980s both China and India experienced phases of large scale deforestation, mostly because they were clearing full old growth forests for urban development, farming and agriculture, no doubt due to their increasing population and economic growth over the last 50 years.

However, the focus changes in the 90s to fight climate change, reducing air and soil pollution and get higher levels of food security. These two countries completely shifted in their overall land use making it clear that humans are very resourceful when finding a solution to a presented problem.

This extraordinary and rapid change is due to swift and opportune change in governance and land use. This intrinsic skill of adaptability and ability to transform the world around us is something that will continue to be necessary to face and overcome the effects of human activity on the planet.

Keep in mind that there is no planet B for us!


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