Solutions journalism is news about how communities and organizations are responding to social and environmental problems. This collection contains solutions stories demonstrate how people around the world are working to restore degraded tropical forests. In Malawi, using a three-pronged approach of providing water filters, planting trees, and using effective cookstoves has helped curb rapid deforestation. In Borneo, providing affordable health care removed the locals' financial need for logging and forests are making a comeback. Replanting efforts are underway in Brazil, led by a women's collective, and in Myanmar where drones are being harnessed.
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Want to use some or all of these stories in a classroom or community setting? Here are some questions to get you started. Or make a copy of this collection and create your own.
- Describe the various advantages unmanned drones provide to reforestation efforts, and articulate their limitations.
- Explain why Columbia is home to 20% of all bird species, and summarize the sociopolitical aspects of the challenges its tropical forests face as it recovers from a protracted conflict between the government and FARC guerrillas.
- Evaluate the role of indigenous peoples in addressing environmental problems. How do they contribute to solutions? What are their limitations from a social, economic, and legal perspective?
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Absorbing carbon and filtering water are just two of the many ecosystem services that tropical forests provide. Tropical forests now comprise just five percent of the world's landmass, down from 12 percent previously. However, restoration efforts are underway to reverse this trend. If these efforts continue, Project Drawdown estimates that these valuable ecosystems could sequester 54 or more gigatons of CO2 emissions by the year 2050. Their ample capacity to sequester carbon makes tropical forests a key strategy to slowing and reversing the effects of climate change.
Here are answers to the discussion questions:
- Drones are able to access remote areas much more easily than people, and like all robotic assistants, they don’t tire, get sick, move away, or need food. They function at a fraction of the cost—and risk—of a fixed wing piloted aircraft. For example, BioCarbon Engineering drones are expected to “plant” over 100,000 trees per day, vastly more than a large team of people could accomplish. In addition, they’re generally not susceptible to physical attack, a key factor in the contested forests of Columbia. They can be used to survey forests repeatedly to check on illegal logging and land clearing. On the other hand, their flight time is limited, their flights must be programmed—which is prone to variation—and aside from their purpose, spreading seeds, they have no connection to or understanding of the land.
- Columbia hosts more bird species than any other country in the world. The key to this diversity is that Columbia is a tropical country, but also mountainous. Because of the variable elevations, weather, and temperature, a vast array of bird species can find a home here. Unfortunately, the end of the civil war has actually exposed Columbia’s forests to more exploitation in areas previously controlled—and protected—by the FARC.
- There is an array of responses to this question. Without question, indigenous peoples are those closest to the land; they care deeply about its health, they understand the myriad subtleties of the local landscape in terms of ecosystem health, they fundamentally see themselves as protectors and not extractors, and they have increasing political and cultural power to address environmental issues on their homelands. They are ideally situated to inform discussions and formulate solutions to deforestation challenges, as well as serving as vested stewards of their lands. Historically, they have been disenfranchised, marginalized, and ignored, but that is changing. Over the last several decades, indigenous peoples globally have been granted expanded rights regarding their native lands, and can now deploy significantly more resources—financial, political, and cultural—to the reservation and restoration of their homelands.