A 23-year-old man has broken the record for planting trees

Originally published at: A 23-year-old man has broken the record for planting trees | Boing Boing


In my experience, it’s the watering, tending, defending, and mulching of the baby trees that is the more challenging part. Especially for the first two-three-four years.

My hat is off to Mr. Moses. I sure hope for his sake and for the trees’ sakes, that there is an excellent support system for each one of these oxygen-creating, shade-making, erosion-controlling, carbon-sequestering, evapotranspiring, habitat-hosting miracles.


I’m about halfway through reading this New Yorker article. I think it’s pretty interesting.

Attempting to replenish India’s tree cover, Modi, like his predecessors, has invested heavily in “compensatory” planting. For the state forest departments that implement these plans, biodiversity is a relatively new concern; following colonial precedent, they have historically regarded native shrubs, grasses, and climbers as “weeds” or, worse, as “junglee.” Under pressure to plant quickly and extensively, they install fast-growing, thirsty saplings, with little thought to whether they’ll survive.

The success rate of such initiatives is low. One recent study, published in a Royal Society of London journal, examined a hundred and seventy-six sites in tropical and subtropical Asia. After five years, an average of forty-four per cent of the trees had died. In October, when the online journal Yale Environment 360 surveyed tree-planting efforts in the Philippines, Turkey, India, and elsewhere, it found that scientists described them as poorly designed and mismanaged at best. Often, they “fail to grow any forests at all.”

This was new info to me:

… Long overlooked in the global fanfare about trees, grasses are just beginning to get their due. Grasslands have extensive root systems, and store a greater proportion of their carbon underground than trees, which release carbon they’ve accumulated when they burn or rot. According to the Climate Trust, an Oregon-based nonprofit, grasses account for a fifth of the carbon stored in the world’s soil; protecting this reserve, the trust says, is “by far the greatest natural climate solution besides reforestation.”

ETA: archive paywall-free link: The Promise and the Politics of Rewilding India  | The New Yorker


Thanks for this. :green_heart:

And yeah… Grasses and algae are oxygen-making, carbon-sequestering powerhouses that consistently punch above their weight, but, somewhat like the issue re endangered species Charismatic Megafauna (“save the pandas”) vs endangered species that are in human perception “lesser” (save the snail darter!), these plants are often passed over in favor of tree-planting.

I mean, who doesn’t like trees, right?

Like so much in life, the devil’s in the details. Ideally, the grasses being planted–just like the trees being planted–would be native to that area, that biome, that soil. Grasses have their own schedule for germination, watering, growth timeline. They also usually require a larger (often much larger) footprint than trees, which can be shoehorned into urban contexts more gracefully.


Grasses also reliably control erosion better, filter stormwater runoff better, provide forage for native fauna especially in historically fire-dependent landscapes, and provide other ecosystem services that trees do not.

I am off coffee this week, tryna get year-end bookkeeping done, and am therefore too lazy to provide many citations. I usually do, or try to. There are accounts of non-native tree-planting schemes in China that have depleted aquifers and then dying en masse having sucked groundwater dry. People in Ireland have noted a huge difference in planting non-native trees as a de facto monoculture vs the kind of ecological restoration based on native tree (and other native flora) species.

One other issue worth tracking is resiliency inside any afforestation plan. Since past is no longer prologue when it comes to our climate and global heating, success can only emerge from a varied native species palette. No single native tree species should be required to do all the work and besides, the soil biota and mycorrhizae communities actually rely on a mix of flora to keep the soil healthy.

First, do no harm.


I’m with everyone else here; what are they planting? They are at least reforesting a previously forested area, not planting in a grassland, for example. If they are planting monoculture trees, I hope they are white pine; these are the species in Canada that tend to recolonize and reclaim deforested areas first, and then other trees and plants follow. This is one way that archaeologists are able to discern previously settled and abandoned areas; by the number of white pines in the area. (I started off my professional life in Canadian archaeology)


I think the simplicity of the story The Man Who Planted Trees has had a huge impact on the idea of reforestation. Many people don’t realize it’s fiction. And it plays well into the whole individualist worship in America-one guy did this! All by himself! No government or collaboration needed! Just grit!
And in China when forests are regrown they are likely to be cut down by the same locals who cut down the original forest for the same reasons.


I have to wonder how well they’re being planted, if each one is only taking 4 seconds. The success rate for these sorts of things isn’t great, and there have been mass sapling die-offs for a variety of reasons, including not being properly planted. Projects where tens of thousands of trees get planted get lots of attention, but less attention when the trees all die, and the projects that got the most attention for breaking tree-planting records have a tendency of having the worst outcomes…


Treeplanting is an industry in large parts of Canada. It varies by province, but when a company cuts down a bunch of trees, they are mandated by law to have a certain density of healthy trees growing there within about 7 years (in BC, not sure about current law in Alberta).

I worked as a treeplanter for a few seasons in that part of Alberta, and it is what planters call ‘fast’ ground, depending on a few things. That said, my very absolutely record breaking best day ever in that fast ground was 3800 trees in about a 9 hour day. My friend nearby planted about 7400 the same day. I was very, very good at treeplanting and my friend was a phenomenon.

That is the best day either of us had in 10 summers of treeplanting. So kudos to this kid for his accomplishment, it’s actually an astounding achievement.

For those wondering about what is being planted, AFAIK current practice is to plant a representative sample of what was cut, with attention to various qualities of the ground. Pine in dry, sandy area, white or black spruce in wetter stuff, firs and alders sometimes if they belong there. The forestry companies face big fines if they don’t succeed at reforestation so there has been a lot of analysis on what works where.


Your last paragraph is reassuring.


Typically there is a fairly tight quality control system for treeplanting projects, at least in BC and Alberta. I say this as someone who was responsible for that quality control for a few years, with financial penalties if my crew had less than 95% perfection in tree planting quality.

It sounds difficult, but if you do something a few thousand times it becomes unconscious. If you do it a couple hundred thousand times it really isn’t difficult to do it well. If you do it wrong you have to go back and do it over (assuming quality control is ongoing).


I rather recently learned the Norway Maple is a problematic invasive in the US, as it can outcompete native maples and other trees, and tends to form dense canopy that inhibits plants growing underneath, decreasing biodiversity. Everything is more complicated than one would initially think.


Devin, I have to take issue with this phrase: “Instead of the flippant and dismissive attitudes practiced by other generations, Gen Z has made caring about the well-being of our planet a pivotal talking point and call to action. And most importantly, beyond platitudes and empty gestures, Gen Z has decided to take action to ensure that we change our ways as a species.” I think we’re all learning that our existential battles aren’t between different marginalized groups, but involve ALL workers, underpaid, disadvantaged and exploted vs. the wealthy capitalists. I think it’s facile and lazy to dump all previous generations as flippant and dismissive. Scientists and biologists have been arguing for decades for cleaner industry, more testing, effluent regulation, care and post-processing of industrial waste, against deforesting the Amazon and plenty of other urgent efforts. It isn’t a matter of generations. It’s a matter, once again, of capitalism and its reluctance to share any resource that interferes with profit generation. Those industries, chummy as ever with politicians, are a very difficult force to go up against. What a new generation may have, that we olds have run out of, is hope, fire, determination, idealism. Gen Z didn’t invent those qualities. Julia “Butterfly” Hill is 48 years old. Rachel Carson died before she was born.


I’m sorry, but quite a lot of people in all generations have an awful flippant attitude towards climate change… but the reality is that it’s going to hit Gen Z and coming generations so much harder than it’s going to hit the rest of us… because we’ll likely be dead far sooner, and escape the worst of it… and guess who are largely in positions of power and influence who can make actual changes - lots of Boomers, some Gen xers, and a smattering of millennials… very, VERY few Gen Zrs, although there seems to be a mass movement among them. If it was the boomers who gave us the first major climate legislation, it was also the boomers who did their level best to claw away much of the gains made as a result of it… And many in power don’t seem to give a shit that climate change is causing absolute havoc around the world, because they’ve got theirs, so the rest of us can fuck right off. Good on young people for pushing for change - as it should be, as they are the ones who are going to inherit this place that many of us have done a piss-poor job of caring for…


But my point was something I think you’re missing: It’s people in every generation trying desperately to steer capitalists away from the rocks. Same as the Cassandras right now warning about the clear developments in fascism. Many are not listening. We have to be careful not to give capitalists an out from the conversation, while we bicker among ourselves. The “generations” don’t effectively exist. Blaming boomers or gen x for leaving a mess lumps 80s climate activists in with Reagan and Bush. Both were present the entire 20th century, just like they are now. To put a fine point on it, the opposition isn’t between generations. It’s between capitalism and all the people and creatures and systems of the planet. Making large structural changes to the US political system, with its industrial lobby in close partnership, isn’t something one generation can solve. You said it yourself: If boomers did the most about climate legislation and then relinquished those same gains, you’re looking at the wrong factor. Capitalists are very, very, very hungry. They’re constantly gaslighting us about what causes structural problems. They’d be delighted if we keep bickering among ourselves, constantly finding new divisions to create fake othering and tribalism. Maybe each generation has its own mess to clean up; consider what Rachel Carson was concerned about: a monstrous, unprecedented mess left behind from the industrial revolution, a century ago. Regulations did arise from that activism. And in her time, people warned about further environmental degradation, and others had a motivation to ignore those warnings. Just like today.


I’m not enthused about the idea of gene-edited trees and monoculture plantations, but this bit below does mention some issues re planting inappropriate trees.

And of course, no matter whether a clear-cut has been replanted or not, logging destroys ecosystems, full stop. Those are very difficult to “repair.”

Take That, Tree Plantations

Interest in sequestering carbon and growing biomass for fuel is incentivizing people to plant massive swaths of trees of a single species on unforested land. As desirable as even monoculture plantations might be for mitigating climate change, they pose a challenge in the form of relatively poor habitat and a risk of spreading nonnative invasive species into native forests, disrupting the ecosystems there. One way to prevent this is to use genome editing to make the plantation trees sterile. However, this too can have downsides, as funds spent in this way are not available for other, potentially more beneficial, activities and the genome editing could inadvertently cause trouble for native species, too.


Is it?

I don’t deny that there were environmentalists in previous generations. I’m a historian, so I know that there were, going back to the 19th century even… I’m saying that the forces seeking to exploit our common resources were larger and more powerful so far. It could be true of Gen Z, we’ll see.

Yes, I’m very aware of that, being one of those “Cassandras”.

But we act as if they do, so you know, they do. Something being a social idea doesn’t make it less real or the only factor at play.

Does it? The social existence a concept of “generations” doesn’t mean that everyone was on board with the same agenda. At the same time the 60s counter-culture was happening, Movement Conservativism was building, and that included a great deal of young people who ended up in positions of power in the Reagan and Bush administration. And the reality is that Boomers dominate the halls of power today - STILL.

Yes, I’m very aware, thanks. Again… historian.

Maybe, but I’d argue that we should not dismiss people’s agency here. People can be fooled, but they can also make conscious choices about what they do in the world, including how they choose to see the world and what they choose to do about our shared problems. It’s true that many people are acting on bad information, but many do know about the science and still make the choice to embrace bad information, because it fits the ideology they embrace (capitalism). As much as propaganda is at play, so are people’s agency. The reality is that many CHOOSE to put themselves and their bank accounts first, even knowing what it can do to the planet.

And since the Reagan era has been rolled back by the right. Just look at things like Flint - which are a failure of that regulation because of how it’s been weakened in favor of business.


Ding ding ding!

:open_hands:t5: :trophy:

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.