According to a new study there are an estimated 3.04 trillion trees on earth, a number that boggles the mind of scientists. Dr. Tom Crowther at Yale University told the Huffington Post, “We were astonished, simply because this is such an astronomical number.”
As science progresses, we hope new data improves our knowledge and understanding of the universe and technology, and allows us to discover new cures and treatments for illness and disease. But even with such improvements, this tree study demonstrates one of the limitations of science. And that limitation is the human element; we simply have limited knowledge, and new discoveries demonstrate how little we previously knew, and how wrong we’ve been.
In this case scientists were so far off in their estimates that they find it astonishing! “The previous estimate,” Dr. Crowther continued, “which was solely based on satellite information, was approximately 400 billion, so we were surprised to find that our final number had 12 zeroes after it. The scale of this number really puts a lot of things in context.”
The importance of trees and vegetation to our existence is vital. Not only do they provide us with oxygen, but they store an incredible amount of carbon, cycle nutrients, and provide us with many services. In return we provide them with the carbon dioxide they need. Thus we have a symbiotic relationship, trading oxygen and CO2 to help sustain the atmosphere and our environment.
Satellite information had been used for previous estimates, but I think that low number was accepted partly because it fits the narrative that man is destroying the planet. Mankind is supposedly such a scourge because we’re chopping down entire rainforests and polluting the planet beyond what it can endure.
But let’s keep things in perspective. Current population estimates indicate that there are about 7.3 billion people on the planet, and it should be apparent that the number of trees would greatly exceed the number of humans. For example, take a look at the photo below. It’s a shot of some of the trees on my property. Counting them all would be quite an undertaking, but I could guess maybe 1,000 trees sharing a property with two humans (my wife and myself). So the erroneous estimate of 400 billion trees (about 61 per human by some estimates) does seem rather low in comparison, and that’s what I found surprising. But it makes sense when it fits within the popular narrative.
The new data comprises several sources, including people physically counting the number of trees in a given area. That’s truly amazing and impressive!
The tropics still remain the largest forested areas in the world with an estimate of about 43% of all the world’s trees. And some of the world’s highest tree density occurs in Russia, Scandinavia and North America.
So it seems we’re far better off than we’ve been led to believe. We’re not in danger of running out of trees or destroying the environment. But of course the article makes it clear that we shouldn’t think that way, pointing out that 15 billion trees are cut down every year, and that the total number of trees has dropped by about 46% since the dawn of civilization.
Even if those estimates are true, that shouldn’t be cause for alarm. With over 3 trillion trees left, that’s a lot of trees that will reproduce to take the place of those 15 billion that are lost each year. Planting new trees is a common practice for, not only logging companies, but ordinary people. It’s also estimated that we plant over 1.5 billion trees each year in America alone. Due to reforestation, America’s forests aren’t in danger; we actually have more trees today than we did 70 years ago!
I couldn’t find statistics estimating how many total new seedlings are reproduced world-wide each year, but I’d expect that number to exceed the 15 billion that are lost each year. Hopefully with this new research we’ll be able to answer that question soon.
This s all good news, but that doesn’t justify polluting the environment, abusing it or being wasteful. Most people want a healthy environment, and we should work towards that goal and be good stewards. But the important point I’ve taken from this article is that we have a healthy number of trees on the planet, and that we don’t need to panic when we hear alarmists trying to convince us that we’re destroying the planet. As far as I’m concerned, only God can destroy the planet. So until that day comes, let’s enjoy the great variety and number of trees we’ve been blessed with.