Illustration by Paige Vickers / Vox

Maybe you’ve heard: Earth, our planet, is not doing great. Tropical forests are getting cut down. Parking lots are replacing bird-filled grasslands. Climate change is fueling forest-razing wildfires. On the whole, natural, plant-filled habitats, seem to be disappearing.

Despite this destruction, scientists keep coming to an odd conclusion: The Earth is growing greener. Not green in the metaphorical “sustainable” sense, but in the literal color green.

In the last four decades, the extent of green vegetation — i.e., the amount of leaves in a given area — has substantially increased across the planet, according to a number of recent scientific studies based on satellite data. There’s actually more green space today, not less. And this “global greening” phenomenon is not just occurring on land. Large parts of the oceans are getting greener, too, research shows. Our blue planet, it seems, is increasingly a green planet.

Understanding Earth’s color is key to understanding Earth and our future on it. “Greenness” often corresponds to the planet’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide, the […]

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