Climate breakdown is unfolding before our eyes, the planet is losing species faster than at any other time in human history, and people are panicking. We are right to panic. As individuals we feel that there is only so much we can do; stop eating meat, stop flying, pressure our governments to take action on climate breakdown. But our governments aren’t taking action. What can we do, while the powers-that-be do nothing? What can we do when we feel so powerless? We start a movement from the grassroots, or rather from the tree roots; we plant trees. This organisation, at its core, is about planting trees to heal the planet, and we understand the desperate urge to rush to the nearest patch of land and fill it with trees. However, before we run out with spades and saplings in hand, there are a few things that must be taken into consideration because we don’t want to do more harm than good, and we want our trees to survive.
First and foremost; where should we be planting trees? We do not want to disrupt established, healthy ecosystems in a misguided attempt to do good, so where we plant is a vital consideration. Pay close attention to what is already there, the existing system. Ask yourself “is this an important habitat in its own right?”. It does little good, and in fact a great deal of harm, to destroy an entire wildflower meadow to plant a forest; meadows have an important ecological role of their own. It’s akin to bandaging a healthy left arm, when you’re bleeding out from your right leg, it makes absolutely no sense, and the planet will not thank you for it. The same can be said of many other ecosystems. We must seek out the earth’s wounds, and tend to them. A good example, is intensively used agricultural land. Fields of bare earth vulnerable to the worst effects of rain and wind, almost entirely void of habitat for wildlife, and unable to yield crops without the use of heavy fertilisers; these are perfect places to plant trees. We should also plant trees, lots and lots of trees, in cities. Planting in cities has the added impact of scrubbing pollution from the air, making the city healthier for its human inhabitants, and providing habitat for all sorts of wildlife that has thus far been pushed out by the urban sprawl. These areas of land need healing, and trees are nature’s sutures.
Now that we have identified the place, the second factor that must be considered is when to plant trees. The most appealing time (for us) is a warm sunny day in late spring, but wait; is that what a young tree wants? No, not in the slightest. Summer ground is firm, and there isn’t a lot of water around for a thirsty young tree trying to establish itself in a new place. For best results, plant trees in the rainier days of late autumn, and winter. The softer ground will yield readily to the delicate roots of young trees, and there’s little chance of them going thirsty. It’s less comfortable for us, but the trees will appreciate your willingness to take on a bit of cold rain for the health of the planet. In any case, being out in the rain and cold is good for the soul, it reinforces our connection to nature.
Our final consideration is more philosophical; it concerns our understanding of time, and nature’s perspective on time. Humans are prone to forgetting that the planet does not live on our watch, rather, each layer of our planetary ecosystem has its own timescale. Minerals, plants, and animals all differ. Trees, for example, live much longer than any human can ever hope to; there are some trees in the UK that have stood for over a millennium. Trees take time, their own time, to grow and mature. In turn, the planet will take its own time to heal from the damage our species has wreaked since the industrial revolution, and it won’t happen overnight. When we plant trees today we must do so with understanding and appreciation of the fact that we likely will not be around to reap the full benefit of our actions. Even if we plant a trillion trees today, climate breakdown will get worse before it gets better, and many of us alive today will never see the “better” part. The point is that if we don’t plant trees it will never get better. Planting trees is an act of altruism, it is for the future, it is for people you will never meet, who will never know your name. All these people will know, is that we did everything we could to put right the mistakes of the past and plant them a better future.
We hope that this has equipped you with some of the knowledge you need to make the most of planting trees, and instilled/ reinforced a sense of perspective regarding what we’re trying to achieve. Now, go forth and plant that better future.
“Unless someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.