NASA has released satellite images and data that reveal the Earth now is greener than it was 20 years ago. Thanks to conservation efforts in China and India, the world’s foliage has significantly increased in number. Soon, we may be able to have a cleaner and greener world.
Over 20 years, NASA has recorded data on the Earth's foliage through instruments on two satellites orbiting our planet. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) gives researchers high-quality images and data in order to analyze the vegetation on the ground. Every day for the last 20 years, MODIS has captured four shots of every place on the planet, allowing scientist to have a comprehensive timeline of the greenery on Earth.
Good news for green thumbs: The world is a greener place than it was 20 years ago. 🌏 Data from @NASAEarth satellites shows that human activity in China and India dominate this greening of the planet, thanks to tree planting & agriculture. Get the data: https://t.co/8LRXR7xcpS pic.twitter.com/UlyXhzA9Uq— NASA (@NASA) February 12, 2019
In aggregate, the greenery that has been added in the last 20 years is equivalent to the area covered by the Amazon rainforests. More than two million square miles of extra foliage has been added per year since the 2000s: a 5% increase in the total leaf count. The images show a significant increase in China and India, two of the largest populations on the planet. They both account for one-third of the greening, but only has 9% of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation. This was surprising to researchers because it’s assumed that more populous countries would have higher accounts of land degradation and resource exploitation.
These additional leaves are thanks to both countries’ initiatives to plant trees. In China, ambitious tree planting programs were enacted in order to decrease the effects of soil erosion, clean the air, and slow climate change. India has also been planting many saplings into the ground—even breaking the world record in 2017 by planting 66 million trees in 12 hours. On top of this, both countries are improving their agricultural practices in order to feed more people, conserve land and resources, and have space to plant more trees.
Both countries have proved that a high population does not necessarily entail the degradation of resources. In fact, they needed to get creative with what they have in order to provide for the hundreds of millions of people who live in their country. Hopefully, with their guidance, NASA will release photos of an even greener Earth in the next 20 years.