World Has More Trees Than We Thought: Crank Those Chain Saws

treesResearchers have found that Earth has trillions, not billions, of trees. Good news, right? Not for those in the scientific community who are always looking for a way to cast man and human activity as scourges of the planet.

As reported Tuesday in the Washington Post, “A team of 38 scientists finds that the planet is home to 3.04 trillion trees, blowing away the previously estimate of 400 billion. That means, the researchers say, that there are 422 trees for every person on Earth.”

That’s a healthy ratio. No one can hug that many trees, at least not all at once. So there should be delirious joy that there are so many more trees than previously thought. But rather than joy, there’s defeat.

“In no way do the researchers consider this good news,” writes Post reporter Chris Mooney. “The study also finds that there are 46% fewer trees on Earth than there were before humans started the lengthy, but recently accelerating, process of deforestation.

Looked at another way, we were doing OK when we thought there were only 400 billion trees, but now that we know there are 3 billion, things are miserable.

And here’s another thought: Isn’t 46% fewer than 3 trillion better than 46% fewer than 400 billion? Just asking.

Thomas Crowther, a researcher at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, is the lead author of the study published in Nature. He also seems to be the lead defeatist.

“We can now say that there’s less trees than at any point in human civilization.

“Since the spread of human influence, we’ve reduced the number almost by half, which is an astronomical thing,” he said.

What would these researchers have had man do throughout his existence if he could not use trees to protect himself from his harsh environment, to span bridges for economy-building travel and trade, to erect fortresses to guard against attack, to build fires to shake off the cold, to construct ships for exploration, fishing and commerce, and to print books? The advancement of man required him to harvest trees.

There is also another missed point: Once trees are harvested for human use, the men who harvested them don’t stand around staring at the open field, wishing they had more trees to sell — they plant again.

In fact, we’ve learned that U.S. forest growth “exceeds harvest by 37%.” This should mean that we have more trees than we otherwise would have had if man weren’t using this valuable natural resource.

“More than 730 million acres of forest cover the U.S.,” says the Alaska Forest Association. “That equals two-thirds of the forested area present when Columbus landed in America. There is now 28% more standing timber volume in the U.S. than in 1952.”

This is a beautiful market solution and works better than the typical government response, which is almost always a lethal combination of restrictions, coercion and outright foolishness that causes laws and programs to backfire. (To be fair, in some cases government does require harvested forests to be replanted.) Our forests are too important to be left to the poor stewardship of government.