President Trump is expected to announce this week that he will pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement, an unmitigated disaster for us all. (Editor's note - this has now happened)
But a group of three friends in Christchurch, New Zealand, have a plan. They’re asking people to plant billions of trees as part of their “Trump Forest” project to offset the damage to the climate that Trump’s policies will cause.
Founder Adrien Taylor, 27, climate scientist Dr. Dan Price, 29, and PhD candidate Jeff Willis, 28, started the project in April after being shocked at Trump’s views on climate change. They hope it can act as a call to arms for people who are left feeling powerless.
“It was really quite demoralizing to have someone who questions basic science elected president of the free world,” Taylor told IFLScience. “We know Trump likes his things, he’s got Trump Vodka, Trump Chocolate, Trump Towers. So we thought he might like Trump Forest too.”
The idea is to get people around the world to either plant trees themselves or pledge money to a specific charity to plant a tree on their behalf. If you go down the former route, the team ask that you send them a receipt for your tree here.
If the latter, you’ll be donating to The Eden Reforestation Projects, a non-profit charity that’s planting mangroves in Madagascar. Any money you donate will go directly to the charity.
About 15,000 trees have been planted around the world and $4,500 has been pledged since the project began. The team themselves planted 1,000 trees in Christchurch, New Zealand, in a region that had been devastated by bush fires.
The goal is to create an area of trees equivalent to the size of Kentucky, about 100,000 square kilometers (39,000 square miles), to sequester enough carbon to mitigate the effects of Trump’s policies. The figures are based on Trump scrapping Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have prevented 641 megatons of carbon being added to the atmosphere over the next eight years.
Dr Price, a climate scientist from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, notes there are “big error bars” on the figures, as different trees sequester different amounts of carbon. But he added that they may actually end up above what’s required, as they're expecting most pledges to go towards the mangroves in Madagascar, which sequester a lot of carbon.
“It’ll be cool in 20 years to say 'oh, what did you do when Trump tried to mess up the climate agenda? Well we planted a forest to offset everything so it didn’t really matter,'” he said.
If all goes to plan, the team hope to reach their target of a few billion trees spanning an area the size of Kentucky by the end of the year. “And the last tree we want to be a Christmas tree on the White House lawn,” said Taylor. “We’ll come and personally decorate it.”
They’ve also extended an open invite to Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, to come and personally plant a tree for his boss when he visits New Zealand next week. “Because by all accounts, he’s the one who wants to stay in the Paris Agreement,” said Taylor.
So, if you're reading Mr Tillerson, why not get involved in this crowdsourced climate effort to save the world? At the very least, it might provide some respite against the growing doom and gloom.