Sunday, September 24, 2023

At 87, Jane Goodall Wants to Plant One Trillion Trees By 2030. And She Just Might Succeed.


Trees for Jane, a new initiative from Dr. Jane Goodall, aims to thwart climate change and protect the natural world for generations by planting one trillion trees by 2030.

At 87 years old, famed primatologist Jane Goodall has filled her schedule for at least the next nine years. She’s just launched Trees for Jane, a global initiative aimed at planting a trillion trees around the world by 2030. That’s a 33 percent increase in the world’s current tree populations or about 128 trees for every person on the planet.

“I know that a trillion sounds like an insane number,” Jeff Horowitz, Trees for Jane’s co-founder, told National Geographic. “We’re not saying flat out that we’ll be able to succeed, but we want to come as close as we can.”

Trees for Jane

The program is built around existing efforts. Horowitz estimates it will be working with hundreds of organizations already planting trees.

Trees for Jane will also work to protect existing forests “because those big trees already have stored CO2,” Goodall said.

“Trees absorb carbon dioxide. They give us oxygen. They help to make rain. So they are a gift,” she said.

It’s impossible to get an exact number, but best guesses but the total tree population on Earth at around three trillion. An estimated 15 billion trees are lost every year to deforestation, fires, and natural causes. But that number used to be much higher.

Image courtesy Trees for Jane

“Colonialism and the industrial revolution created a global extraction economy with little regard for the natural systems that sustain all life,” Goodall and Horowitz explain in an op-ed for Time Magazine.

“And one of the most tragic consequences of this extractive economy is the staggering loss of half the planet’s trees. Where once our planet was home to 6 trillion trees, only 3 trillion remain. And half of that loss has occurred in only the past 100 years—barely a blink of an eye considering the millions of years it took to create Earth’s biodiverse landscapes.”

According to Goodall and Horowitz, this “willful destruction” of forests is so much more consequential than most people realize. “Trees, forests, and all plant life have a crucial role in balancing and maintaining the cycles of life on our planet. They provide food, water, shelter and medical cures. They create the oxygen we breathe and absorb the carbon dioxide that threatens our climate. Deforestation and other land-use disruptions account for a staggering 23% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

They say that between record-setting forest loss and recent warnings about the rapidly ticking climate clock, “protecting and restoring our forests must become one of the highest of our planetary priorities.” These types of natural climate solutions can deliver “up to one-third of the emission reductions needed by 2030.”

The climate crisis

The Trees for Jane announcement, which also includes the film A Trillion Trees, comes on the heels of a U.N. warning last Friday that current efforts to slow climate change aren’t extensive enough to meet Paris Agreement targets. Trees for Jane’s launch is part of the UN’s Climate Action Week. Goodall is a UN ambassador for peace.

Trees for Jane says it plans to work in Africa and throughout the developing world, including projects to protect the Gombe forest in Tanzania where Goodall conducted her groundbreaking research on chimpanzees more than sixty years ago.

Image courtesy Matt Palmer on Unsplash

But tree planting isn’t always a perfect panacea. Recent data found the Amazon rainforest is now producing more carbon than it sequesters. According to a recent Stanford University study published in the journal Nature Sustainability, there are risk factors inherent to tree planting.

“If policies to incentivise tree plantations are poorly designed or poorly enforced, there is a high risk of not only wasting public money but also releasing more carbon and losing biodiversity,” read the study.

But Goodall says it’s a risk worth taking.

One trillion trees

“Planting trees and protecting and restoring forests are not new solutions—they are tried and tested. What is new is the latest IPCC report that paints a more dire picture of the climate emergency than ever before. Our response must be to act now–at unprecedented levels,” Horowitz and Goodall write.

“One trillion trees planted and protected is a big number, even over a ten-year period. But if everyone pitches in, we have a fighting chance to make a difference.”

Image courtesy Jane Goodall Institute

Trees for Jane says it hopes to inspire everyone to help combat the climate crisis and stop deforestation, plant new trees, and protect biodiversity.

“The climate crisis is affecting all life on earth. You don’t have to be a scientist to understand,” Goodall says on the Trees for Jane website.

“We have no time to lose.”

Related: For Tiffany Haddish, Fruit Trees Heal the Past and the Future


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