I dream that all of us who are suffering burn-out because of national and world politics come together to plant and nurture trees. Scientists say that planting ONE TRILLION TREES would neutralize two-thirds of carbon emissions and reverse climate change. Yes, we need to march, to organize, and to vote. But it is also important to embody our commitment to life and the living. Putting our hands in the soil, tenderly teasing the roots of the trees we plant as we nestle them into the earth, we move from our heads to our bodies, re-membering the interdependence of life.
This has already begun to happen in India—a country where what Vandana Shiva named “maldevelopment” has produced massive deforestation. At the Paris climate change conference India pledged to “make India green again” by reforesting 235 million acres of land. The government allotted 6.2 billion dollars to support the plan. What was not expected was the overwhelming enthusiasm of those who volunteered to plant trees.
In 2016 in the state of Uttar Pradesh one million people planted fifty million trees in twenty-four hours. In 2017 in Madhya Pradesh a million and a half volunteers planted sixty-six million trees in twenty-four hours. This movement is spreading across India. Men and children have participated, but it is not surprising that women, whose traditional roles in “forest culture”—caring for and harvesting food and other products from the forests—have played major roles.
Looking at these pictures it is easy to see that in the process of planting trees together, everyone is having fun and community is being created and sustained.
When I saw the headlines about mass tree plantings, I thought: yeah, right, but who is going to look after all these trees? But then I read that every mass tree planting project must include plans to water the trees and to ensure that they survive. The community that comes together to plant the trees must care for them too.
Trillion Trees is a joint project supported by World Wildlife Fund, Birdlife International, and World Conservation Society. Their website posts the alarming statistic that despite efforts to combat deforestation at least ten billion trees are cut down every year. Trillion Trees recognizes that three interconnected actions are necessary: stopping deforestation, improving protection of forests, and planting trees (reforestation).
The Trillion Tree Campaign, a project of the United Nations, helps to co-ordinate, monitor, and record tree-planting efforts around the world. It says that so far thirteen and a half billion trees have been planted. That sounded wonderful until I realized that this is only makes up for the number of trees lost every year and four months!
Reforestation is important, but we should also be thinking about ways to plant more trees in urban and suburban areas. Studies show that living in the presence of trees—on tree-lined streets and with trees in our gardens—lowers stress, promoting serenity, creativity, and a sense of well-being.
So how do we begin? What if every one of us who has a garden planted one or two more trees? What if those of us who live near vacant lots planted trees on them? Taking even one small step can energize us to do more. What if we joined together to ask our towns and cities to allow us to plant more trees in school yards, parks, and other public spaces? Could we plant fifty million–or more–trees in twenty-four hours in the United States—with plans to water and nurture them so they thrive? Not once but many times.
In the ethics of Goddess religion, nurturing life is the first principle. Planting trees, we bring the principle of nuturing life into our bodies. Planting trees together, we bring it into our communities. Planting trees will also renew our spirits because nurturing life makes us happy.
A different world is possible. I hear her calling.
Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator currently living in Pachia Ammos, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.
Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.