When scientists calculated that there were 3 trillion trees on Earth, the higher-than-expected number prompted the UN to significantly up its ambitions in terms of a tree planting campaign from a billion to a trillion.
Now Laura Kehoe, an Irish PhD student of wildlife conservation is hoping to achieve similar things in terms of citizen engagement. Specifically, Kehoe is hoping to leverage the fact that humans have also chopped down nearly 3 trillion since we learned to wield an axe to prompt each of us to take up our part of putting those trees back.
Here's the basic pitch I received in an email from Kehoe:
"We have cut down nearly 3 trillion trees globally. That may sound like a lot, but on average it's only 400 trees per person. I wanted to figure out how I could plant my missing 400 trees and found a highly rated charity that does it for only 10c a tree. They manage this by working with local communities to plant forest gardens - creating agricultural landscapes that are sustainable long-term and regenerate degraded land. So, it turns out, for only $40 I could plant my missing trees."
So Kehoe and some friends set up 400Trees.org in case others want to help replenish "their share" of deforested trees with a donation of just $40.
It's an interesting idea. Often visualizing and personalizing a global problem can help us to feel empowered to make a difference. Sure—we can quibble about what the notion of "our fair share" really looks like. After all, a reasonably well-off citizen of a Westernized consumer society is probably responsible for more forest destruction than a poor person living in Nairobi. But I suspect such quibbles miss the point.
After all, if we are splitting all the trees ever chopped down among those of us who are alive today, we are taking on a significant share of the destruction that was wrought before we were even born.
Either way, I tend to think this is less about guilt tripping each of us into making amends, and more about empowering each of us to make a significant—and yet totally manageable—contribution to creating a better world. From my involvement in a campaign to replant mangrove forests to my wonder at an innovative 1,200 acre regenerative agroforestry project in Brazil, I am constantly amazed by what can happen when humans recognize and invest in the power of trees to make our world better.
This is one more example of people stepping up and making a difference.