If we’re to combat CO2 emissions, which are the main cause of climate change, we need not just targeted policies and radical changes, but trees. Forests and woods are among our main allies in this fight. It’s no coincidence that all over the world people are looking more carefully at their natural heritage.
While alarm grows elsewhere, in Italy the year 2020 has marked a historic date: the country hasn’t been this wooded for centuries. This is revealed in a report, ‘Global Forest Resources Assessment’, also known as ‘FRA 2020’, written by the Italian authorities and recently published as part of a five-yearly review of the world's forests by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). According to the cross-sector group of bodies involved in the study, from the Ministry of Agricultural Policies to ISTAT, woods and forests are gradually creeping back over abandoned countryside, and now cover 300,000 hectares more than they did. To give an overall picture, to date these occupy almost 40% of the national surface area. In the last five years the increase in percentage was 2.9%, but in the previous 30 years it was 25% and in the last 80 as high as 75%. In other words, before the Second World War, Italy was two thirds less green than now. How is that possible? First off, because the countryside was abandoned. Until the middle of the last century, Italy was mostly a peasant society, 60% of whose people lived in the countryside, and most fruit and vegetables were grown in home soil. Later, with the advent of the so-called economic boom, Italian people began to desert the countryside in favour of towns and cities, and the land left behind went slowly from wasteland back into woods and forests. According to some estimates, you would have to go back several centuries to see the peninsula so green.