To address the climate crisis, we not only need to cut emissions and transition our economy to clean energy, but we also must put carbon back in the ground. Forests, natural areas, parks, farmland, and open spaces all have the capacity to absorb large amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through plants and trees, returning carbon to the soil. These solutions help improve air quality, reduce flooding, cool urban heat islands, and make neighborhoods more livable. We need to ensure that the existing forests, farms, parks, and natural areas are preserved and we need to protect new ones.
Nature-based solutions to climate change are cost-effective models that simultaneously provide environmental, societal, and economic benefits and help build climate resilience. In the Chicago region, these can be powerful tools to mitigate the most severe effects of climate change.
Openlands focuses on solutions to the climate crisis that use nature to mitigate or even turn back the clock on the changes and impacts expected for our region. The landscapes of the Midwest are well equipped to meet this challenge: the Great Lakes and the region’s large rivers form the backbone of a natural areas system that allow many forms of wildlife to migrate north as average temperatures rise. Vast prairies and farmland cover the land with plants and vegetation that absorbs carbon dioxide, putting carbon back in the ground. Healthy natural areas and wetlands hold large volumes of rainwater that increasing falls as sporadic, large deluges. And the woodlands and urban forests absorb carbon from the atmosphere, remove air pollution, and measurably cool off urban areas.