Can tech help save the planet?
Global warming was a new word to me when I was in 6th grade. Back then, we decided to plant around 500 trees in the school.
It was a pragmatic challenge indeed to both manage the space and ensure the trees’ subsequent survival; we ended up planting only five trees, out of which two survived. When I visit my school now, looking at the two trees makes me feel exuberant. I can only think, what if we had planted 500 trees and managed to save them all?
Planting and advocacy eventually became my fervid fascination. I started volunteering with Plant-for-the-Planet by running workshops about climate justice -- called Academy -- and have also been planting trees with school-children in Nepal and India since 2012.
Wangari Maathai and the UN Environment Program (UNEP) launched Plant-for-the-Planet in January 2007, as part of the Billion Tree Campaign. The latter was led by a nine-year old German boy, Felix Finkbeiner, and later transformed into the Trillion Tree Campaign.
Planting trees was always a problem, as it needed appropriate space, species, and regular nourishment to make sure it grew properly. After working more broadly, I figured that planting trees with the highest survival rates was rather like engineering.
Since 2007, Plant-for-the-Planet has planted around 14 billion trees across the globe. This was possible with support from donations, governments, and corporate sponsors. However, the goal is to plant one trillion trees, since we still have enough space to plant them without occupying agricultural lands.
These trees can absorb one-fourth of all human made carbon emissions, and the idea is regarded as one of the cheapest ways to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius.
Plant-for-the-Planet is planting one tree every 15 seconds at the Yucatan Peninsula, at the rate of just 1 euro per tree, with each tree having a survival rate of 94%. With this, they can plant 100 million trees by 2030. However, planting a trillion trees is not practical with just this project. We realized the need to devise 10,000 similar projects.
To combat these major challenges, Plant-for-the-Planet came up with an app to create a common platform among tree planting organizations to fulfill the target of the trillion trees campaign, which was launched in Monaco in 2018. Succeeding the campaign, the app was launched recently on September 28, following the Climate Action Summit of the UN secretary general. The app has already donated more than 900,000 trees through this portal.
For the first time ever, some of the best community-led tree planting projects from 20+ countries came together to deliver a massive boost to the world’s reforestation efforts. Now, with the app, everyone can plant trees worldwide with just a few clicks.
The best part is that all the money raised goes directly to the planters. Plant-for-the-Planet does not take any percentage of the donations; it simply provides a platform to make more forestation possible.
Through my journey, I met many people who wanted to plant trees, but were short of ideas or time -- this app could add value to what they wanted to do.
Seven young people from the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation created the “Plant-for-the-Planet App.” The Nepalese lead developer, Sagar Aryal, 24, has been planting trees with Plant-for-the-Planet for more than ten years, as one of 81,000 youths from 73 countries.
Aryal said: “With the late Wangari Maathai in mind, I’ve poured all my heart and soul into this app for the past two years. I hope she would be happy and proud of us. You don’t have a sapling at hand? Or want to avoid getting dirt under your fingernails?
The Plant-for-the-Planet app is your way to help nature recover by selecting from 50 hand-selected reforestation projects from developing countries. The benefits of tree planting are not just for nature, they are also a vital source of income for poor communities because they generate employment opportunities. Many more projects are coming.”
The app is very user-friendly, and only involves selecting a project and making a donation. The trees are planted for you, no excuses. Each tree adds to the World Tree Counter. This app helps implement the excellent goals of the Bonn Challenge -- a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030 -- by creating a positive chain reaction.
In addition, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said: “Wide-spread restoration requires us to reach out to large numbers of people, cost-effectively and quickly.”
She added: “Apps like Plant-for-the-Planet can go a long way in boosting nature-based solutions for climate action, livelihoods, and sustainability.”
Sudeep Ghimire is a Program Coordinator and Global Board Member of Plant-for-the-Planet which aims to plant trillion trees across the globe. He has over 10 years of experience in Climate Change advocacy.