Saving the planet through destruction

We shouldn’t rush to conclusions when it comes to finding environmental solutions.

Perhaps the most important advice to remember as we try to address environmental concerns in a timely manner is to not act hastily. To highlight this point, a recent study from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California found that felling trees might be a reasonable way to combat global warming.

No one is advocating the complete destruction of the world’s forests, but it is food for thought: Planting trees might not be such a glorious solution to global warming. The answers to these intractable environmental problems are never as straightforward as they seem.

The study, conducted by Govindasamy Bala, a researcher for the Livermore Laboratory, found that while trees might benefit our climate by sequestering carbon dioxide from the air, their dark color absorbs more heat than many other geographical features.

According to Bala’s computer models, our fight against rising temperatures would be best served by demolishing all of the world’s forests and replacing them with low-lying shrubs and grasses.

Aside from the ridiculous notion of clear-cutting the world’s forests, the study has other implications. It suggests that planting trees to offset carbon emissions might not be advisable for all situations, but even more, it shows the complexity of our planet.

There is always an urge to rush toward the first available solution when a problem arises without investigating the unintended consequences. Take, for instance, our current obsession with corn ethanol. What will be the impacts of rushing to embrace a fuel that requires intensive growing practices and has a very debatable benefit for the environment?

As we go forward, we need to move quickly to solve these issues, but we must also take time to investigate thoroughly. It’s a frustrating paradox, but patience will pay off.