There are a lot of organizations out there. The world is flooded with them, and the sheer number indicates a paradox: If everything is being organized so thoroughly, why is the world in such complete chaos? By the time you read this, the US election may be taking the word chaos to dizzying new heights, brought to you by even more organizations.
Despite that philosophical conundrum, there are still new ones popping up that are more than welcome. Below are a few that actually have some appeal. They involve trees, and therefore will probably have the greatest appeal if you are a squirrel, but the wider non-rodent community can and should be interested as well. Only Google really understands your interests, but we’ll make the assumption.
First, an amazing statistic: Did you know that this year in BC and Alberta about 340 million trees were planted? These are some pretty big numbers, considering that in 2017 (as reported in Natural Resources Canada’s 2019 “The State of Canadian Forests Annual Report“), 599 million trees were planted across Canada.
There are big plans afoot to plant a lot of trees as a way of helping with the world’s trajectory of reducing emissions. There are organizations that state that planting a significant number of trees (as in, a lot of trees, like a trillion) could “remove about two-thirds of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions caused by human activities since the start of the industrial revolution” which should be enough to make the most ardent activist happy. Yes, that is a crazy big number; yes, it will be expensive; yes, it will be hard. Name an alternative to providing energy to the world’s population thirty years hence that won’t be. (Of course, like any other projection going out decades into the future, the error bars of such projections become comically large, like clown shoes. Recall that it was only in 2015 that researchers realized that they’d had some rather magnificently erroneous miscalculations, and announced that the earth didn’t have 400 billion trees, as thought the previous week, but more than 3 trillion, which is astonishing considering that that’s what they do for a living, and which is like studying to become a doctor for ten years and then realizing that you’d meant to be a vet. So, you know, don’t get too worked up about 50-year forecasts for anything when the margin of error today is a factor of seven.)
However, it is inescapable that, any way you slice it, tree-planting is as close to a universal good-news-story as you’re likely to find. And if emissions-related regulation continues to grow, and tree planting is one of the options to meet such regulations, we should be pursuing that option with a vengeance. The beauty is that tree planting can make almost everyone happy, and, in the context of the US political free-for-all, or Canada’s tenuous grasp on unity, isn’t that pretty much the best possible outcome?
Here then are a few organizations that are putting the wooden wheels in motion. One is Project Forest. Project Forest has a wildly knowledgeable team that knows seedlings like Warren Buffett knows dollars. The non-profit’s goal is to find partners, find suitable locations, then plant, monitor, and maintain new forests, then report on the results. The goal, including but not limited to the carbon sequestration aspect, is to create “cleaner air and water, less soil erosion, more animal habitat, and an overall improvement to the wellbeing of our province—and its people.” Win, win, win and win. Right squirrels?
Across the border, a similar organization has taken root in North Dakota. The Industrial Forest project operates under the motto: “It takes an Industry to Build a Forest”. This organization also seeks out partners to fund planting projects, and, like the Forest Project, recognizes the importance of maintenance and support to ensure the projects succeed.
Both organizations are choosing to create forests that are a part of the fabric of humanity, focusing on areas within reasonable proximity to municipal centers. They look to create forests laced with walking paths, or other similar ways to help communities associate with successful growth projects that have such overlapping benefits.
Though I think these initiatives are fantastic, there are of course naysayers from either end of the spectrum. Talk of reforestation, particularly if the hydrocarbon industry is involved, as a means of meeting governmental goals/demands brings standard sniper fire from both horizons. One school of thought rebels at the notion of planting more trees in a nation that is home to billions and billions, or feels the need to point out that artificial forests of inappropriate species are a bad thing, or takes issue with the whole fear-mongering aspect of “the planet is baking and we’re all gonna die” or some such. The other end of the spectrum fires back with arguments that tree-planting is a hollow gesture pursued by evil “fossil fuel” companies to try to distract attention from the fact that they’re destroying the planet.
To the former group, I’d say, you’re not necessarily wrong, but time to wake up and smell the coffee. To the latter group I’d say hey, glad you care about the environment, but no coffee for you, because it came to you via hydrocarbons. Now off the two of you go to fight in a pit somewhere. We all share some traits from the opposing camp, if we’ll admit it. Perhaps I loathe Wall Street (see: The Big Short) as much as any Antifa, and perhaps at the same time I loathe socialism as much as Ayn Rand. Maybe that’s nature’s perfect balance. Maybe that duality would leave me paralyzed in a US polling booth, what do I know. What I do know is that pragmatism is a necessity. Following each of those ideologies to their pure roots in a messy, complicated, complex world is a recipe for paralysis or gunshot wounds.
I’d like to hang out with the tree planters, the builders, the solution-finders, the ones that accept that it’s a complex, complicated, nuanced, huge, difficult world out there, and we can do better by focusing on the trees and not fighting about the forests. We have a way of life that no one – no one – will turn their back on, and the rest of the world wants to have it too – and we have no right to stop them. At the same time, 7.5 billion people will exhaust the world’s natural resource pantry at some point, and we need to find ways to recognize that eventuality and work towards solutions. Organizations like Project Forest and The Industrial Forest are doing just that, and deserve our support. Throw them a few acorns if you can.