Planting trees now to build homes in the future

by Ed Stiles, Director Agris

This lecture from Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber marks a historic moment in the dawn of the Biomaterials Age, in which we make buildings from wood turning cities, towns and villages into carbon sinks. We urge everyone to watch it.

Professor Schellnhuber is calling for a transition away from steel and concrete to biomaterials as our primary construction material.  This will transform construction from a major cause of global warming to a climate cure. If our homes become carbon sinks, locking carbon up forever, we will make significant progress in the battle to limit global warming to the critical 2 degree mark.

Planting trees to build homes
Agris’ Ed Stiles and Ian Paterson assess a trial plot of eucalyptus in an area of degraded forest, Northern Mozambique.

Where is all this construction wood going to come from? The Biomaterials Age requires us to restore degraded forest land NOW – planting trees that can be sustainably harvested to build new cities, towns and villages to house a global population of 10 billion in 2060.

We already have 2 billion people living in slums. Professor Schellnhuber calculates that to house these people using sustainable materials (trees) we need 150 million hectares of new plantations. Is that a big number? Not really. There is one billion hectares of degraded land on the earth’s surface which can be reforested.

In 2015 analysis from WRI and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), revealed that Africa has the largest opportunity for forest landscape restoration in the world – more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres), an area nearly the size of Australia. And it’s in Africa where population growth will be fastest so it makes sense to grow trees close to where they will be needed.

Professor Schellnhuber’s vision of buildings that can be de-assembled and reconstructed to preserve precious biomass and prevent the release of stored carbon through burning is compelling. But it means getting new trees in the ground now.

Agris is working hard to establish sustainable forestry plantations through Agris Equatorial Forestry, harnessing our experience at Equatoria Teak Company, South Sudan’s largest sustainable forestry operation. We need co-investors who share our vision and long-term commitment to the sustainable production of construction material and carbon-negative business. The trees we plant today will build homes for generations in years to come and prevent the worst-case scenario Professor Schellnhuber describes in his lecture. 

Here is the link to the New European Bauhaus conference, held in November 2022. Professor Schellnhuber’s lecture is 20 minutes long, starting at 49 mins.

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