Philippines tree planting program – a global model for climate progress, even if shovels serve double-duty knocking false environmentalists out of the way
One of the biggest obstacles to materially reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the human tendency to ethnocentricity – to view the world through our own cultural lens. Not just to consider it superior, but to only use it as a reference point because that is what we are most familiar with.
In Canada, we can fall into this trap when we hear about the benefits to the world of planting more trees. Almost every Canadian is within an hour of billions of them. Walk out into one of Canada’s 3.5 million square kilometres of forest, an area bigger than India, and you will burst out laughing at the apparent futility of benefitting the world by adding one more tree to the seemingly-infinite supply. There are more trees than humans seem to be able to count. World authorities make comical estimates trying to determine how many there are globally; one news article from 2015 boldly announced that there were 7 times more trees on the globe than previously thought – the previous estimate of 400 billion trees was off by a mere 2.6 trillion (this estimate from the climatic “science is settled” crowd).
Here in Canada then the idea of planting an additional tree when that is all we can see seems a bit silly. But from a global perspective it most certainly is not, because much of the world’s forests have been decimated by a human population that can denude a landscape more efficiently than feral pigs.
It was therefore refreshing to read about a brilliant initiative from the Philippines whereby Filipino students will have to plant 10 trees to graduate. The country has lost vast swathes of forest to development, and poor governance practices have not replaced them. Until now, that is. The government estimates that, in the course of a single generation and counting graduates at various levels, 525 billion trees will be planted (a number which again provides a comical counterpoint to scientific estimates of the number of trees in the world) although the government realistically assumes that perhaps 10 percent will survive. Nevertheless, for a not-huge nation, that is fantastic news.
This strategy is an absolutely brilliant way to start making serious progress in the climate wars. Humans refuse to change their consumption habits (not quite true – they will adjust them upwards), and the demand is growing to lower atmospheric CO2 levels at the same time. Fighting human nature – trying to get them to voluntarily reduce their standard of living – is an utterly hopeless task, so why not pursue one like this that is manageable, well-incentivized, and actually works?
Believe it or not, there are naysayers with respect to tree planting; some scientists debate the benefits of trees with respect to climate change (even though I read recently for the one-billionth time that “the science is settled”, apparently it isn’t all that close, and that’s quoting their own climate industry output, below). For instance, an article on the Nature website illustrates some scientific handwringing about the benefits or drawbacks of more trees, though, to be frank, their analysis sounds just plain stupid (“some scientists warn against relying on forests as a solution to global warming until a better understanding emerges” is one quote…if we have a dozen years to act to save the planet, and forests take decades to grow, shouldn’t we be acting now just in case common sense prevails and we decide that trees are good? And I’m referring only to this motley group of “scientists”; pretty much any creature or human that is not in that fringe group can quite apparently see the environmental benefits of forests.).
(In fact, the article descends completely into farce; it mentions a 2017 study that estimates that tree planting could meet one-third of CO2 reductions required by the IPCC, but dismisses the study, or disparages it, by sulkily pointing out “the analysis relies on big assumptions, such as the availability of funding mechanisms and political will…” Is that not the most brazenly stupid comment ever uttered in the climate wars? The entire climate change narrative as pushed by the IPCC, the UN, and countless environmental activists is based on the “the availability of funding mechanisms and political will” and takes those as a given. That is, those very key components are ignored as potential impediments when calling for a demand on fossil fuel abolishment, but of critical importance when considering the feasibility of tree planting. And the world wonders why there are climate skeptics? Good lord, what kind of human that doesn’t have a pipe stuck through their head wouldn’t be a skeptic of this sort of nonsense?)
If “availability of funding mechanisms and political will” are the two biggest obstacles to reducing GHG emissions, then tree planting is the best and probably only real option we have. GHG reduction schemes crafted by the UN or the IPCC call for “unprecedented change” to everything we do, across all spectrums, to reduce emissions simply by, for example, getting off fossil fuels. In comparison, planting trees is as easy as drinking beer.
It is obvious that if any progress is to be made in reducing global GHG emissions levels, we will have to bulldoze to the side these fringe lunatics that want GHG emissions reductions but only in impossible ways. Trying to get people to stop using fossil fuels is only going to lead to World War III, and while that may be a climate solution of sorts – by wiping out half the world’s population – it is, for many, not the preferred route.
Planting trees is, however. So get out the shovels, knock the intractable climate zealots out of the way with it, and plant a tree. Or ten. Well done, Philippines.