A recent study finds that restoring plants and trees near industrial sites could reduce air pollution by an average of 27 percent.
"Despite the proliferation of control technologies, air pollution remains a major concern around the world, suggesting the need for a paradigm shift in methods to mitigate emissions," begins a new study from the Ohio State University. Did someone say paradigm shift? Good, because technology like chimney scrubbers are not doing the job. So who can we call? To the vegetable kingdom.
“The fact is that traditionally, especially as engineers, we don't think about nature; we just focused on putting technology into everything, "said Bhavik Bakshi, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State University and lead author of the study. He adds:
To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed data on annual United States emissions and land cover by county, revealing that existing vegetation - forests, grasslands, and shrubs - absorbs a remarkable amount of current emissions. They then examined the impact that restorative planting, "bringing a county's vegetation cover to its county average levels," would have on air pollution levels, specifically the most common air pollutants: sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide. nitrogen. The numbers are surprising… or not, for anyone who understands the power of plants.
“Restoring land cover, where possible, to county-level average canopy cover can further remove contamination from SO2 [sulfur dioxide], PM [particulate] 10, PM2.5, and NO2 [ nitrogen dioxide] by an average of 27% through particle interception and absorption of gaseous pollutants, ”the study notes.
And if this sounds like an expensive solution, check this out: They concluded that in 3/4 of the counties analyzed, it was cheaper to use plants to mitigate air pollution than to add technological improvements. The only point where the technology was cheaper was for industrial boilers. The power from the plants could be used to help defuse the impact of emissions from industrial sites, highways, power plants, and oil and gas drilling sites.
Given the tremendous health effects of poor air quality - health problems like asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease - and that 40 percent of the U.S. lives with pollution, This is quite an urgent matter.
While I argue that cleaner industry is the best solution, planting trees in the meantime certainly can't hurt. They will lead to cleaner air and will also have many other benefits: thank you, plants and trees for taking another for the team. But can we really act together and embrace this simple but radical idea? We seem more determined to raze nature rather than lift it up.
"What we are interested in is basically making sure that engineering contributes positively to sustainable development," Bakshi said. "And one of the main reasons why engineering hasn't done it is because engineering has kept nature outside the limits of its system."
The study, Nature-Based Solutions May Compete with Technology to Mitigate Air Emissions in the United States, was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.