Message from Fritjof: Can trees save the planet?

“We agree with our Advisory Board member Dr. Fritjof Capra, and Prof. Tom Crowther of ETH, that indeed, the best way to capture ambient CO2 is Nature’s way, with photosynthesis as trees and plants restore this carbon to enrich Earth’s soils, as we have also explained in our Green Transition Scoreboard® report: “ CAPTURING CO2 WHILE IMPROVING HUMAN NUTRITION & HEALTH : 2018“ now a free download from

Dr. Hazel Henderson, Editor.“

I am writing with some very exciting news from the forefronts of global ecology and climate activism. A recent authoritative study by scientists at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, published in Science, represents the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted on Earth without encroaching on crop land or urban areas; and of the amount of COthat would be absorbed from the atmosphere by those trees.

The study shows conclusively that planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis.

Their analysis found that there are 1.7 billion of hectares of treeless land on which 1.2 trillion native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land, equivalent to the size of the US and China combined. The study estimates that such a worldwide planting program could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities!

“This new quantitative evaluation shows that forest restoration isn’t just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one,” said Prof. Tom Crowther, the lead researcher of the ETH team of scientists; and he added: “What blows my mind is the scale.”

I have long thought, and argued in articles and books, that regenerative agriculture and forestry are the only proven strategies to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Now the ETH study provides detailed quantitative information on where and how this can be done most effectively.

The research is based on measurements of tree cover by hundreds of people in 80,000 high-resolution satellite images from Google Earth, combined with 10 key soil, topography and climate factors, to create a global map of where trees could grow.

Here is the link to a summary of the ETH study in The Guardian (UK):

What is now urgently required, according to Jean-François Bastin, also at ETH Zurich, is that governments factor tree restoration into their national climate strategies. However, we need not wait for governments to take action. We can begin to implement the solution of forest regeneration ourselves. And this is the second part of the exciting news I want to share with you.

A second article in The Guardian profiles the organization TreeSisters, founded by Clare Dubois and Bernadette Ryder, which is planting 2.2 million trees each year (at an average cost of 40¢ per tree) across Madagascar, India, Kenya, Nepal, Brazil, and Cameroon.

To do so, TreeSisters raise the money from thousands of individuals, and they work with organizations employing local people to plant the trees. For example, in Madagascar, TreeSisters works with Eden Reforestation, employing more than 1,000 people who have planted 225 million new mangrove trees since 2006.

In these projects, reforestation goes hand-in-hand with poverty alleviation among the local populations — a truly systemic solution — and TreeSisters tend to work predominantly with organizations led or driven by women.

Here is the link to this second Guardian article:

And here is the link to the website of TreeSisters, which I have used myself to make a donation:

I hope you will find this information as inspiring as I have. In the words of Clare Dubois: “Let’s not wait for the government. We the people are the solution and can drive massive change. We’re talking about how we can move from rebellion to restoration.”

With best wishes from Berkeley,


P.S.: In the meantime, registrations for the Fall Capra Course ( , which begins on September 25, have started. Again, we are expecting a large cohort from many countries around the world, and I greatly look forward to continuing stimulating discussions  with our global network of systemic thinkers and activists. Please help us spread the word about the course among your friends and colleagues.