Around half of the habitable land on the planet is now used for agriculture. A millennium ago—or more recently, in the case of many countries—it was mostly wilderness. Soon, technology could reshape that balance again, bringing back acres of trees as tools to fight climate change.
A new project from the global design firm Stantec looks at how ancient forests and other ecosystems could come back, through “rewilding,” if we produce food differently. Raising cattle, for example, takes up vast swaths of land for grazing or growing cattle feed. (In the U.S., pasture occupies around a third of the lower 48 states; these maps illustrate just how much of the country is used for grazing.) But as plant-based burgers and bioreactor-grown dairy continue to become more common, and eventually cheaper and tastier than the versions from animals, it could make more space available for forests to return. Similarly, indoor agriculture is more efficient than traditional farming and so could help free up space.