Forrest Fleischman Profile picture
Associate professor of environmental & natural resource policy at the University of Minnesota. 2021-2022 Fesler Lampert Chair in Urban & Regional Affairs.
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17 Nov
There is a pattern of deceptive practices wherein tree planting programs are presented to the public as some kind of unquestionable environmental good. Here is another example: propublica.org/article/the-ce…
As the reporting shows, the company makes expansive claims about its tree planting that turn out on closer examination to be inaccurate. You can't actually find out what trees are planted where. Its hard to believe that you can grow trees well for only $0.10 per tree.
In response to my quote that points to potential challenges for tree planting, the company falls back on "It’s scientifically proven that trees take carbon out of the atmosphere, and the more trees we plant today, the more sustainable our planet will be for decades to come"
Read 6 tweets
18 Oct
Maybe like me you are confused by how many principles there are for restoration. In this spreadsheet I identify 64 principles for restoration in 6 papers published in the last 2 years. No wonder I was confused! docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d…
There is substantial overlap - for example, several emphasize importance of protecting intact ecosystems & including stakeholders.
There are also striking conflicts - one principle is "make it pay" while another principle is "prioritize social and ecological benefits over financial returns"
Read 6 tweets
11 Oct
I spent the weekend troubled by this editorial in Science. I agree with some of the main messages: Restoration has great potential to improve human well-being while caring for the planet. BUT I'm troubled by what isn't said. science.org/doi/full/10.11…
Restoration often involves difficult tradeoffs. The editorial makes it seem like its just win-win, but often land that is restored used to be agricultural land, or is used in some other way by people, or there are tradeoffs between ecological goals.
The editorial says that we can reconcile large-scale restoration of natural systems and food production, but it isn't clear to me how this statement is grounded in the current scientific literature.
Read 20 tweets
1 Oct
In the last week I've started to receive inquiries from people running tree planting programs wanting my help. I am suggesting that they shut down their programs. Here I will explain why:
Some context: A couple weeks ago a team I am a part of published a paper demonstrating the failure of long-term planting programs in India nature.com/articles/s4189… or ungated: conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/hand…
This follows an earlier paper that discussed some of the common failings of tree planting programs more broadly: cedarhimalaya.org/images/Fleisch…
Read 27 tweets
15 Sep
India has attempted large scale forest restoration for decades. We have just published one of the first systematic evaluations of these efforts. We find that decades of tree planting have had almost no impact on forest canopy cover or rural livelihoods. A Thread.
These results are pretty disappointing: These plantations failed to achieve their goals. This failure also raises questions about the aims of global restoration and tree planting initiatives: Can they deliver on their ambitions plans?
The full paper is here. nature.com/articles/s4189… and I will post a link to the author's version (ungated) at my university repository once it is available (in a few hours)
Read 30 tweets
14 Sep
2 pieces of advice for writing academic cover letters: (1) your cover letter (and any accompanying statements) is an essay about your accomplishments & agenda. It should have a clear thesis statement & each paragraph should contain a specific piece of supporting information
We all tend to write these things chronologically, or to list off things we've done, but letters that shine instead describe a research (or teaching, or diversity) agenda that is specific, focused, and can be broken down into subcomponents that provide evidence.
(2) show don't tell. I actually got this advice from my high school guidance counselor. If you say "I encourage active learning in my classes" describe specifically how you do this in a class you teach (or plan to teach) using a specific example.
Read 5 tweets
12 Jan
@reddmonitor has a great post summarizing a number of recent articles about "plant for the planet," which raise a host of interesting questions about the potential for tree planting & forest restoration to serve lofty goals. redd-monitor.org/2021/01/11/pla…
I got involved in this because I've done fieldwork in the area where Plant for the Planet's Mexican forests are. I was last there in 2015, so around the same time Plant for the Planet got started there. I can't report direct observations.
Much of @reddmonitor's post is a summary of an excellent piece of journalism by @herrfischer and @hannahknuth which you can read in the original German (or using a translator) here. zeit.de/2020/53/plant-…
Read 19 tweets
12 Jan
When the lofty goals of forest landscape restoration are put into practice, the rhetoric is replaced by a focus on planting trees, often in places where they don't belong. link.springer.com/article/10.100…
I've had a bunch of arguments with FLR advocates about this. Mostly, they boil down to a believe on the part of FLR advocates that their complex science-based prescriptions will be translated into careful on-the-ground action.
My own observations from S. Asia have always led me to be skeptical of this. Here are a set of similar cases from Africa.
Read 6 tweets
16 Sep 20
These days everyone seems to thinks that "planting trees" is an important solution to the climate crisis. They're mostly wrong, and in this paper we explain why. Instead of planting trees, we need to talk about people managing landscapes. 1/x academic.oup.com/bioscience/adv…
We highlight 10 pitfalls of tree planting, and discuss how a focus on people who manage landscapes will work. 2/x
The first pitfall is that it is ecosystems, not tree planting campaigns, that capture and store carbon. Tree planting campaigns have high failure rates, and many ecosystems with sparse tree cover store large amounts of carbon below the ground - e.g. see onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.11… 3
Read 22 tweets