“The possibilities are amazing. We can fly at 1,000ft at 130 knots planting more than 3,000 cones a minute in a pattern across the landscape – just as we did with landmines, but in this case each cone contains a sapling. That’s 125,000 trees for each sortie and 900,000 trees in a day” Peter Simmons, representative of Lockheed Martin.
A 2015-Serbian study aimed to understand better the aerial means and flight conditions most suitable for aerial sowing as well as conduct research on seed bomb preparation. The ideal environment for tree bombs is one that had supported a forest in the past. However, other areas are a possibility as well with just a few minor adjustments — and using shrubs instead of trees. While it found positive results, it stated that further research is necessary to deepen our understanding of this new-age reforestation technique.
Another ambitious government-sponsored aerial reforestation program is being carried out in Thailand. Its slogan states “Drop Seeds, Not Bombs”. In 2013 the Thai Air Force dropped seed bombs over a wildlife sanctuary in Phitsanulok. Rural students helped make seed-balls from local plants, which are highly regarded for their economic value.
A controversial study published in Science Friday, set out to assess how much new forest the earth could support without encroaching on urban areas or farmland. BBC News reported that it came up with an area of 0.9 billion hectares, nearly the size of the USA. It claimed that planting 500 billion trees could remove nearly 25% of the existing carbon from the atmosphere and reverse the global average temperature rise. It also stated that reforestation is “the most effective solution” for mitigating the climate crisis. While others deemed this as far too ambitious, this study isn’t entirely futile as it offers thought-provoking possibilities to save the planet using gentler, natural geoengineer techniques. And aerial reforestation might be the best shot we have at accomplishing what this study claims is possible.
In Oxford, England, strides are also being made in the aerial reforestation arena. Founded by ex-NASA engineer Lauren Fletcher, the company has introduced game-changing technology into the realm of ecosystem restoration. Using drones, areas can be mapped beforehand, then tree cones are planted on an industrial scale. Most importantly, the technique utilizes optimum planting technology to increase carbon-uptake rates of the trees.
As it stands, billions of trees are lost every year because of human activity and natural disasters. During the recent UN Climate Summit , an agreement was made to restore 350 million hectares of damaged and deforested land by 2030. An estimated 300 billion trees would need to be planted to reach this goal. And aerial reforestation technology can make it happen.
While geoengineering techniques do have their flaws-they can alter the natural climate system in potentially dangerous ways- reforestation is possibly the safest artificial technology we can use to save the planet. Some still question whether humans have the authority even to bring drastic changes in natural earth systems, for instance, grow new forests. Use of artificial technology is and always will be a moral issue, simply because it’s an implicit reflection of the human mindset which enables us to feel like “conquerors” of this vast, magnificent planet. While others state that this may well be the only chance at making amends for anthropogenic induced global warming as well as excessive deforestation.
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