Plant a billion trees a year? This drone company's response: 'We can do that.'

We lose the equivalent of nearly a football field worth of forest every second.

Community leader Luiz Lopes gives a tour of illegal logging near his town in Brazil. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Seriously.


We lose between 46,000-58,000 square miles of forest every year, according to the World Wildlife Fund. If you do the math, that's about 48 regulation football fields every minute.

Well over a billion people rely on forests for food and shelter. But unsustainable logging, clear-cutting, and other man-made activities are threatening our forests like never before.

The good news is that people are actively pushing back. There are major reforestation projects underway, and in some places, like Washington state in the U.S., logging companies are required to replant any areas they harvest. But a couple of workers or volunteers with shovels and backpacks just aren't going to beat fleets of chainsaws and bulldozers.

To save our forests, it's time to go high tech. Like, "flying aerial cannons" high tech.

"Hello!" GIF from Info Biocarbon/YouTube.

One company, BioCarbon Engineering, wants to use flying drones to plant trees.

BioCarbon's system uses two drones. The first is shaped like a small airplane and reads the land, scanning for obstacles and picking out the best places to plant trees. The drone then feeds this information to a bulky helicopter-like drone that flies over the areas, firing pre-germinated seedlings into the soil.

Image from  Info Biocarbon/YouTube.

Their goal is to plant a billion trees a year. And they might be able to do it.

"We're firing at one a second, which means a pair of operators will be able to plant nearly 100,000 trees per day — 60 teams like this will get us to a billion trees a year," BioCarbon Engineering's CEO Lauren Fletcher told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Image from Info Biocarbon/YouTube.

The system can work 10 times faster than human hands and is cheaper than hiring laborers, according to Dr. Susan Graham, the company's CTO. It can also reach places that'd be impossible for people to get to safely. For example, the company has been testing their drones over land abandoned by coal mines in Australia.

Now that tests are looking good, the company is currently accepting customer contracts.

We desperately need our forests, and this could help balance out human impact on the world.

Forests are a vital part of our planet and provide innumerable value to both individuals and humanity as a whole. They capture carbon and provide food and shelter to both people and animals. To fix deforestation, we should consider not only good old elbow grease and local efforts, but high tech approaches as well.

And I don't really see how you could get much more high-tech than this.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Last year, we shared the sad impact that plastic pollution has had on some of our planet's most beautiful places. With recycling not turning out to be the savior it was made out to be, solutions to our growing plastic problem can seem distant and complex.

We have seen some glimmers of hope from both human innovation and nature itself, however. In 2016, a bacteria that evolved with the ability to break down plastic was discovered in a Japanese waste site. Two years later, scientists managed to engineer the mutant plastic-eating enzyme they called PETase—named for polyethylene terephthalate, the most common plastic found in bottles and food packaging—in a lab.

Here's an explainer of how those enzymes work:

Ending Plastic Pollution with Designer Bacteria youtu.be

Now researchers have revealed another game-changer in the plastic-eater—a super-enzyme that can break down plastic six times faster than PETase alone.

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True

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Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather has become a beloved voice of reason, knowledge, and experience for many Americans on social media the past few years. At 88, Rather has seen more than most of us, and as a journalist, he's had a front row seat as modern history has played out. He combines that lifetime of experience and perspective with an eloquence that hearkens to a time when eloquence mattered, he called us to our common American ideals with his book "What Unites Us," and he comforts many of is with his repeated message to stay "steady" through the turmoil the U.S. has been experiencing.

All of that is to say, when Dan Rather sounds the alarm, you know we've reached a critical historical moment.

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via DanielandDavid2 / Instagram

Editor's Note: We used "black" in lowercase for our headline and the body of this story in accordance with emerging guidelines from the Associated Press and other trusted news outlets who are using uppercase "Black" in reference to American descendants of the diaspora of individuals forcibly brought from Africa as slaves. As part of our ongoing efforts to be transparent and communicate choices with our readership, we've included this note for clarity. The original story begins below.

On February 26, 2019, Stacy and Babajide Omirin of Lagos, Nigeria got quite the shock. When Stacy delivered identical twins through C-section one came out black and the other, white.

The parents knew they were having identical twins and expected them to look exactly the same. But one has a white-looking complexion and golden, wavy hair.

"It was a massive surprise," Stacy told The Daily Mail. "Daniel came first, and then the nurse said the second baby has golden hair. I thought how can this be possible. I looked down and saw David, he was completely white."

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