by Stefano Mancuso

Around 450 million years ago, the concentration of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere reached much higher peaks than the current ones, presumably around 2000-3000 ppm. At these levels of CO2, the first organisms that right then were appearing on dry land found themselves living in a very different environment than today: extremely high temperatures, ultraviolet radiation, formidable storms and violent climatic events. This environment continued to be hostile for a long time, threatening the survival chances of most species, until something unexpected was able to change everything in a relatively short time, drastically reducing the amount of CO2 to much lower levels which were compatible with life. What happened?
It simply happened that plants, the planet’s deus ex machina, had appeared and solved, in a turn of events, what seemed to be a no-way-out situation. In relatively few million years, by absorbing huge amounts of CO2 and using its carbon to create organic matter, the newborn arboreal forests were able to reduce its concentration by about ten times, substantially changing the Earth’s environment and making the advent of widespread animal life possible on Earth. The huge amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere in that time was fixed through photosynthesis inside the body of plants and photosynthetic marine organisms, and since then has remained buried in the depths of Earth’s crust, turning into carbon and oil. And there it would have remained forever, untouched and harmless, if we, as in the worst horror movies, hadn’t disturbed this sleeping monster. As a matter of fact, by using that ancient carbon as fuel, man releases large amounts of new CO2 every day which can’t be managed by the current carbon cycle and therefore increases the share of CO2 in the atmosphere, consequently amplifying global warming, increasing temperatures etc. So what can we do? We can certainly reduce emissions as we have been hearing from many people, for a long time. That is a good and fair thing, but honestly, this strategy has had a very poor outcome in recent years. (…)
(…) So what else can we try? It’s pretty obvious: let the plants handle this again! In the past, they have already shown they are able to drastically reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, enabling animals to conquer the land. They can do it again and give us another chance. For this reason, we should cover with plants every surface of the planet they could thrive in. But first, any further deforestation must be stopped. (…)
(…) Deforestation should be considered as a crime against humanity, and punished accordingly. Because that’s what it really is. Not only our Nation of Plants charter, but the constitutions of every country should state that forests must not be harmed and must be kept alive, and that soil, air and water must be kept intact. The fact that our only chance of survival depends on plants should be taught to children at school and to adults everywhere else.(…)
(…) The only real global emergency. (…)
(…) Plants can help us. Only they can bring the concentration of CO2 back to harmless levels. Our cities (…) should be completely covered with plants. Not only in their appointed spaces: parks, gardens, avenues, flower beds and the like, but literally everywhere: on the roofs, on the facades of buildings, along the roads, on terraces, balconies, chimneys, traffic lights, guardrails and so on. (…)
(…) Let’s defend forests and cover our cities with plants, the rest will follow.

La Nazione delle piante by Stefano Mancuso, Laterza, pagg. 90-95.