The 4 Best Ways to Use Our Land to Help the Planet
If you have been paying attention to climate strikers, activists, and scientists of the world, then you should know by now that fighting climate change often isn’t a matter of inventing some brand new technology (although new tech is always great) but rather it’s about effectively mobilizing the resources we already have to make a better, more sustainable future. Using the land properly is one such incredibly important changes we can make to combat this climate catastrophe, but how would we go about doing it? Here are four ways, order in terms of effectiveness, of how we can change our land use policies to help save the planet.
Save the Rainforests
Number one on this list is no surprise to anyone who has been reading up about the fires in the Amazon. Tropical rainforests are extremely dense old-growth forests that act as centers of biodiversity as well as gigantic oxygen production centers, so protecting them is the front line of fighting against climate change. They also store half of all carbon in the world’s forests, so this one biome is vital particularly as a carbon sink. Make no mistake, the deforestation of the tropical rainforests is much more about irresponsible land use rather than natural processes, with the Amazon being torched to make room for cattle farmers and Indonesian rainforests being bulldozed for palm oil. Keep in mind that rainforest soil is not very nutrient dense as all the nutrients get sucked up by the plant life, so simply “replanting” lost rainforests isn’t a feasible option. Needless to say, cutting meat consumption (especially Brazilian raised beef), pressuring governments and companies to take action for the rainforests. and supporting activist groups and protection agencies like the Rainforest Alliance are all important steps in fighting the good fight. Reducing palm oil is another important step, but it is a tad more complicated as palm oil is in everything from Skippy's Peanut-butter to Head & Shoulders shampoo, often with misleading labels. So be sure to check out palm oil product lists so you know what to avoid, as well as other names it can be labeled as and supporting clear palm oil labeling laws.
The next one may come as a bit of a surprise, but planting bamboo and supporting bamboo production can go a long, long way to helping fight climate change. Why is bamboo such a “miracle plant?” Basically it’s because it’s a grass that’s as tough as a tree. Since it’s a grass it has an incredibly fast growth rate of only about 5 years, requires almost no irrigation or pesticides to grow, and is hardy enough to be grown in a huge number of climates. Bamboo can be made into everything from clothing, to makeup containers, to hardwood flooring and even straight up construction projects. The only major downside is that making bamboo into a textile is a chemically involved process, but even that’s being solved, with brands like Ettitude making Bamboo Lyocell using a closed loop process. Incorporating a ton more bamboo into product design and construction is a fantastic way to responsibly use the land.
Protect Indigenous Rights
Yes, any discussion on protecting the land and using the planet’s resources in an efficient way needs to talk about indigenous land rights and protections. There are 370 million indigenous people worldwide yet they collectively manage about 25% of the world’s carbon stored in the forests. Indigenous populations have made marvelous innovations in living with the world’s natural resources, including controlled burns that prevent wildfires, regenerative harvesting, selective domestication, that can and should be adapted worldwide to greatly reduce our impact. On the other hand, these communities are often directly under attack by the industries aggressively trying to expand unsustainable practices, such as Standing Rock’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the various Indigenous Amazon tribes fighting against Brazil’s cattle ranchers, and the Torres Strait Islanders currently suing the Australian government for failing to fight sea level rises. Using the land effectively means protecting and restoring indigenous land rights, and so we strongly recommend supporting groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network and Survival International.
Preserve Coastal Wetlands
Finally, a key way to fight climate change through our land use is to preserve coastal wetlands, which are immediately under threat from rising sea levels. Wetlands refer to a number of diverse coastal areas, including corals, estuaries, beaches, and most prominently salt marshes and mangroves. And while “protect our salt marshes” might not sound as sexy as “save our coral,” remember that both of them are vital to the environment. Wetlands make for another huge carbon sink and biodiversity home, as they are environments where a large amount of fish, amphibians, birds, and plants all thrive. In particular, wetlands tend to be enormously important feeding grounds, hatcheries, and migration stops, making them critical to maintaining ecological balance. Furthermore, they act as barriers against flooding by preventing soil erosion and blocking floodwater, so protecting wetlands is important to fighting sea level rises in a very physical sense as well. It is important to stop development into wetlands, and to make development that’s already in wetlands more sustainable with “living shoreline” techniques that stabilize the shoreline naturally with techniques such as vegetation planting. Opt for unbleached paper as bleach runoff is highly toxic and hits the wetlands first. Furthermore, avoid phosphates in your cleaning supplies as well as nitrogen heavy fertilizers for your lawn and garden, as both of these promote deadly algae blooms that choke out and poison the area, creating dead zones.
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