From everyone I have spoken to who has either co-ordinated, or been part of, a community tree planting activity, it is clear it’s one of the most satisfying things we can do, where we can watch the impacts literally grow over time.
There is an obvious comfort in believing that life can continue as normal despite the climate emergency. This is likely the reason that studies of the remarkable carbon capturing potential of trees have received an outsized amount of public attention in recent years.
Yes, confronting the climate crisis will require a switch from ‘dirty’ to ‘clean’ power. But it also demands a radical reconfiguration of environmental power dynamics.
The UK has just three decades to reach net-zero emissions and tree planting has emerged as a prominent part of the government’s plan to get there.
With technological solutions in their infancy, trees are for now the only scalable “negative emissions” strategy and can come with additional benefits for wildlife, flood management and health.
“Forty-eight billion trees may seem like a high number to reach but there’s a simple way to get there: just take the first step and keep going,” she writes in her most recent book To Speak for the Trees.
But planting native trees won’t do much good if we don’t stop current rates of deforestation in the Amazon and Boreal forests or reduce fossil fuel consumption at the same time.
Quality not quantity is what is needed: good husbandry, not the willy-nilly broadcasting of trees on random hectares. Good husbandry will come naturally when fossil fuels are eliminated, and artificial fertilisers a thing of the past, for it is then that people will fully appreciate the true value of land.
Therefore, to anyone who’s contemplating planting trees on a piece of land because they have specific goals for it, as we did – wind protection, privacy, nitrogen fixation, firewood and timber, amenity value, fruit and nuts, even wildlife habitat or carbon sequestration at a stretch – I say don’t be put off by the permaculture purists who insist on natural regeneration. Go for it.
There are periods in Western Civilization’s history that lack the glamor of the ages of empire or the steady march of progress that seemed to characterize the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans or other remarkably advanced societies. Between military adventures we tend see the periods of hiatus and re-consolidation as “dark” or “middle” ages. Nothing much was going on, we think. These periods comprise a largely un-rediscovered history. The fascination of the dominant university narrative with militarism also leaves out vast areas on the periphery, where a lot of innovation began.