It’s the little things citizens do.
That’s what will make the difference.
My little thing is planting trees.
Since I started this blog last year, I’ve been asked more than once why I decided to call it “Planting It Forward.”
There were several reasons the phrase spoke to me. The first was to acknowledge that each individual’s efforts to add more green into the world combines with everyone else’s and the result is more than the sum of its parts.
If you take my window box, plus your succulent garden, plus the tree that the City planted in our local park down the street, they aren’t just random acts of horticultural kindness. They work together – creating an ecosystem that nurtures pollinators, reduces CO2 levels and increases our overall green space.
Another aspect of “planting it forward” is knowing that what we do today impacts the future. When you plant a new tree, what grows from that seedling will be enjoyed not only by your children, but their children and untold generations to come.
And then there’s the idea of planting inspiration forward. Which brings us to the quote above from Wangari Maathai.
She was a Kenyan woman responsible for the Green Belt Movement in Africa that planted 30 million trees across that continent in about 30 years. The late Ms. Maathai was probably being a little modest when she said her “little thing” was to plant trees; she leveraged her environmental activism into a platform for women’s rights and increased democracy in Kenya. She was elected to Parliament and, in 2004, won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Along the way, she planted some inspiration. In 2007, a 9-year-old German boy named Felix Finkbeiner learned about Maathai’s work as part of a school project and it gave him an idea. What if kids got together and promised to plant 1 million trees in each of their countries? How much could that help the Mother Earth?
With the backing of the United Nations Environmental Programme, Felix’s class presentation became Plant for the Planet, a nonprofit which planted its millionth tree in Germany after just three years. Plant for the Planet has expanded into dozens of countries since then, and last year kicked off the Trillion Tree Campaign (it’s the number of trees scientists estimate can be planted without competing for space with agricultural concerns or settlements).
From Russia to Taiwan, India to the Ivory Coast, Colombia to the United States, thousands of children are participating and encouraging adults to “Stop Talking. Start Planting.” If they reach their goal, those trillion trees could capture 25% of all human-made carbon emission each year.
I hope that this year, you’ll consider being part of this movement by digging a hole, placing a seedling in it, and planting it forward.