Tree planting: A ‘romantic’ distraction or an impactful effort

On day two of the ongoing political negotiations at COP 19, host Poland [Warsaw] organized a tree planting exercise, which, according to Warsaw city and forestry officials is part of a broader programme to plant 20,000 – 40,000 trees annually in Warsaw and its environs. At the same time, plans are underway to acquire 5 ha of potential commercial land within the jurisdiction of Warsaw city for a park and tree planting by 2014.

Now back to the tree planting! We traveled by bus about 45 minutes out of the city to a clear-felled area of the forest, where other groups including children and forestry college students were eagerly waiting to take action for climate. I must admit that it was very encouraging to witness people of different nationalities gather for a noble cause. Even more encouraging was the younger generation happily taking part in securing their future. Furthermore, the whole exercise worked out well and our planting team comprising Mary Katharine, Sofie, myself and Mathew was declared as the most international team with nationalities from Belgium, United States of America, Kenya and New Zealand. After 90 minutes, the international team had planted 160 trees!

This action was a good way to demonstrate the need for action in the wake of political negotiation process but, it must have served also, as a good public relations move by the host. It was however, clear from the opinions of persons interviewed afterwards that this is not the central issue on current status of climate change. The idea of planting a tree is satisfying, personally, I love the idea itself but, questions abound as to whether current plantings will have significant impact on carbon dioxide sequestration in the near-term. Therefore, it would be unfortunate if tree planting was used intentionally or otherwise, to steer attention away from the real issues, particularly the issue of shifting economies from fossil fuels such as coal to cleaner alternatives such as wind and solar energy!Image

-Isaac Rayola

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