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Can Planting a Trillion New Trees Save the World?

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I asked the head of the 3 trillion tree organization if he knew how many trees were planted or how many were still alive throughout the world. A trillion trees have been planted. They all said no — and planting a trillion trees was not a goal at all. Nicole Schwab, Executive Director of, told me that her organization aims to “preserve, restore and grow” trillion trees. Reducing the achievements of the myriad organizations and individuals that make up the movement into a single number is impossiblely complex and will go the wrong way, she says. “From our point of view, $ 1 trillion is ambitious,” says Schwab. “We need to boldly raise ambitions and implement a system that monitors everything that is pledged. To me, that’s more important than actually counting trillions.” World Wildlife Fund, Wild John Lotspeich, executive director of Trillion Trees, a collaboration with the World Wide Fund for Nature and BirdLife International, said its goal is to protect existing forests, address the root causes of deforestation, and restore devastated landscapes. I did. It may include planting some trees, but “our three organizations aren’t thinking about finding a free field somewhere and putting some trees there. It was, “he says.

The third trillion tree initiative, Plant-for-the-Planet, was led by Felix Finkbiner, who helped kick off the race for the trillion trees in a 2011 UN speech. I was displaying something that looked like. A graph showing the website, more than 13 billion trees planted by groups around the world. Sometime last year or so, the graph was deleted. Finkbeiner, currently studying to get a PhD. In soil microbiology in Thomas Klauser’s lab, he remains enthusiastic about the global movement. But his candid pitch of youth now has a lot of warnings and subtleties. “We probably want to see ourselves as a reforestation movement, not a tree-planting movement,” he told me. “I think this 1 trillion tree frame still makes perfect sense, as it gives us a rough idea of ​​the magnitude of the potential for restoration. Obviously, it’s clear, simple and catchy.”

The competition for a trillion trees can continue to motivate donors, but Finkbiner says his organization is no longer focused on counting trees. Ultimately, he says, the success or failure of the movement in the restoration of the world’s forests is judged by satellite imagery, not the number of trees planted, seen over time, and discussed in the old-fashioned way on a hectare basis. I believe.

In that April In the morning, while the Eden plantation team continues to transform Engenho’s fields into a forest of the future, Damian Santos drives me and two visiting Eden employees and he about what the forest looks like. I saw the vision of. A few miles south of the village, we parked at the end of a red dirt road, following the trail of muddy tires and crossing another undulating expanse. At the edge of the field, the open landscape suddenly turned into a towering forest. It is a mixture of hardwoods and vines, with dense undergrowth and hanging vines. Water dripping from a nearby spring accumulated between the roots. Santos crouched to pick up the freshly germinated seeds. He rolled it in his hand. When scientists said trees should not be planted in the Cerrado, Brazil, they ignored grasslands and savanna, ignoring these dense forested areas. He said these patches also needed to be restored. That meant planting trees. In any case, the opinion of outside scientists was secondary — Karunga wanted a tree, which was their land.

Later that day, in Engenho, I saw Eden reforestation employees carefully counting tree piles and finally providing a raw number to be added to the steadily climbing tree count on the Eden website. rice field. These trees have already fulfilled one of the promises of the tree-planting movement, providing jobs to people in places where there are few financial opportunities. Will Santos’ envisioned forest grow, which was actually just seeds and seedlings, to bring the expected benefits to the local environment, or billions or even tens of billions of all trees to grow? It will take much longer to see if. Of the other seeds and seedlings planted by Eden and other groups around the world, they will survive long enough to have a meaningful impact on biodiversity and the global carbon cycle. Trees were clearly useful and seemed terribly uncertain as a solution to the world’s most pressing problems. Even if countries, businesses and individuals spend billions of dollars funding tree planting projects around the world, we must believe a lot about the trees themselves.

The tree-planting visionaries, company founders, and employees I talked to learned the lessons of past failures, dialed back their bold claims, and tree-planting is just one of many solutions needed. Claimed to understand that it wasn’t. “We know how complicated it is,” says Jad Daily, CEO of American Forest. “We know that science needs to be understood correctly, especially in climate change. They say,” If you focus on a trillion trees, you are ecological. We are not focused on these details of climate-based, community-centric reforestation, which is appropriate for us. ” To be honest, it’s annoying. I agree with Maxime Renaudin, the founder of Tree-Nation. He says the tree-planting movement is working to improve accountability and transparency. “It’s more important to make some mistakes than to do nothing,” he says, referring to the wider move. “We are talking about urgent issues. Our focus should not be perfect.”

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