A time when the act of tree planting is receiving reviews from across the spectrum – sometimes disparaged as ineffective, other times hailed as the solution to climate change – is a time to pause and raise the question: Why is tree planting having such a moment in the first place? And while it is, how do we make sure the momentum is harnessed to have the greatest long-term benefit?
On 29 September, the digital forum Can tree planting save our planet? hosted by CIFOR–ICRAF in partnership with Resilient Landscapes and the Global Landscapes Forum examined the ins and outs of how to support tree planting processes with the financing, local buy-in, scientific knowledge and long-term care to ensure trees survive through to maturity and planted landscapes thrive. Here are some of the most poignant words from the researchers, forestry experts, community leaders, investors and policymakers who took part.
“We should not be interested in planting trees, but in growing trees.” – Robert Nasi, director general, Center for International Forestry Research
“We really need to think about the scale of the problem we’re trying to address. We need to think in really big numbers: 2 trillion trees are needed to be planted around the world to restore global ecosystems.” – Lauren Fletcher, founder, BetaEarth.global
“On an annual basis, about 50 billion dollars are spent on tree planting around the world, and we’re still at a net negative of what we need for tree planting. We need to be more efficient, and improved technology is a great way to do this.” – Lauren Fletcher
“Everyone is talking about mobilizing capital, but they are talking about economic capital. We need to talk about mobilizing social capital as well… To equate supply chains with value chains is wrong because value chains include the social component as well.” – Howard Shapiro, distinguished senior fellow, Resilient Landscapes and World Agroforestry (ICRAF)
“It is only a matter of time before economics makes room for nature.” – Partha Dasgupta, Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics, University of Cambridge
“[We launched #FreeTownTheTreeTown] without knowing what our budget was but knowing that we had to do this to address the dangers we face from deforestation and landscape degradation.” – Yvonne Aki Sawyer, mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone
“I love trees. I think I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” – Wanjira Mathai, chair, Wangari Maathai Foundation, quoting U.S. poet Joyce Kilmer
“Communities are not a homogeneous unit. There are different characteristics. We cannot look at restoration without looking at gender and age dynamics.” – Susan Chomba, project manager, World Agroforestry (ICRAF)
“Everyone is talking about being radically inclusive with tree planting. Let’s focus on what’s working – focus on the consensus – because people talking about doing this in the wrong way are actually in the minority.” – Jad Daley, president and chief executive officer, American Forests
“The biggest challenge is avoiding messaging that makes it sounds like tree planting is an easy way out for climate change and environmental degradation.” – Thomas Crowther, professor and founder of Crowther Lab, ETH Zurich
“The true value of nature hasn’t always been accounted for. We have an opportunity to rectify that.” – Leona Liu, deputy director, Resilient Landscapes
“We are quantifying the benefits of biodiversity and tree planting so we can tell a story that is backed up by science.” – Bonnie Norman, president, E3 International
“I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but I think trees belong to the planet, and those who can afford to pay for tree planting should. This is important to help restore what has been taken.” – Ramni Jamnadass, co- leader of Tree Productivity and Diversity, World Agroforestry (ICRAF)
“The biggest tree planting mistakes are monocultures, invasive tree species and poor water management… another big mistake would be not involving the stakeholders.” – Harrie Lovenstein, head of R&D, Land Life Co.
“If you release carbon dioxide, you increase the temperature of earth, and an increase in temperature increases the likeliness of lightning strikes and wildfires. Therefore, if you emit carbon dioxide, you are also an arsonist. Let’s shame the arsonists.” – Tony Simons, executive director, CIFOR-ICRAF
This article was produced with the reporting assistance of Daniella Silva and Laetitia Laborie of CIFOR-ICRAF.