China is known for its long history, rich culture, and cute pandas. It’s also known for some of the worst air quality in the world. But the Asian country is now using a natural weapon against air pollution—trees.
In February, China’s government announced plans to cover at least 32,400 square miles with forest. That is about the size of Ireland. Some 60,000 soldiers will take charge of the tree-planting program. Most of the trees will be planted in Hebei Province. That is an area surrounding China’s capital, Beijing.
Huang Wei is an environmentalist who works for Greenpeace East Asia. She is optimistic about the plan. “Trees act as a sink to absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants,” she told TFK. Carbon dioxide is a gas that traps the Earth’s heat. It contributes to global warming.
Why is China’s air filled with toxic chemicals? It’s because of the country’s reliance on coal-fired power plants. When coal is burned, PM2.5 is produced. PM2.5 is a pollutant. It can cause shortness of breath, heart attacks, and even death.
Just two years ago, pollution levels were so high in Beijing that schools and factories had to close. Huang hopes China’s tree-planting plan will reduce the nation’s “suffering from air pollution.”
The Chinese government is getting help from others in its drive to make the nation greener. Stefano Boeri is an Italian architect and urban planner. He is leading an effort to plant vertical forests in China.
Boeri’s designs have already taken root in the city of Nanjing, China. That is where the Nanjing Green Towers (pictured) are under construction. The building has two towers. Thousands of trees and hanging plants will grow on the balconies and rooftops.
Boeri says his goal is to design buildings that help the environment and improve air quality. He also hopes to encourage a new generation of green architects.
“I always tell kids that trees are their best friends,” Boeri told TFK. “This is because trees improve the quality of air that they breathe.” The Chinese hope more trees will help the country breathe easier.