conservation development environment

What’s a tree worth?

As Tom Hodgkinson says, the first thing you should do when you move to a new house is plant a tree. This we did two years ago, two apple trees and a cherry tree, and over the last couple of weeks I’ve picked the first apples off our little cordon apple in the back garden. Last year it managed one apple the size of a golf ball, and this year there were five.

I don’t depend on my trees, fortunately for me, but a tree can have all kinds of useful functions. It is food, shade, and a habitat for wildlife.  They keep the soil together and prevent erosion. To human communities, it may also provide fuel for cooking, construction materials, traditional medicine, and a source of income.

Unlike annual crops, trees just keep flowering and fruiting year after year, with very little work to maintain them.  They are a dependable source of food, and in times of famine, being able to forage for wild foods can be a life saver.

All of which makes tree planting a noble cause indeed, and the more barren and windswept the environment, the more important it is. Forestry schemes have so many benefits, from increasing food security to offsetting CO2, to protecting habitats and reclaiming deserts. They’re a great way of caring for people and the environment at the same time.

So today I wanted to mention TreeAid, Britain’s only forestry-based development charity. They have planted over 7 million trees since 1987, training people in how to look after them, working to increase yields of fruit trees, and holding back the encroachment of the Sahel desert.


  1. Tree Aid – what a common-sensible real-world idea. Well done Tree Aid.

    Here’s one that isn’t – Pay for the right to breathe.

    It wouldn’t be worth mentioning, but for the fact it is associated with the UK ‘Royal Society’.

    “Prof John Thornes has calculated the value of air we breathe based on the current price for carbon dioxide under the EU emissions trading scheme at 1.3p per cubic metre. Everyone breathes around 15 cubic metres of air each day, which amounts to 19.5p a day or £71.17 a year.” [OMG >:-}]
    The story goes on to say that Prof Thorne will present his findings today at the annual international conference of the Royal Geographical Society.

    Prof Thornes’ argument goes beyond the ‘economics of genocide’ in 1994/5. That episode just had the economists of rich people discriminating against poor people, where it was cheaper to have them die from human-caused climate-impacts than prevent such impacts from occurring with C&C in the first place: –

    This new idea has scientists who are apparently disconnected from the basics of carbon-cycling by failing to notice that this [to me potty] ‘price’ should surely be net of the carbon [carbohydrate] someone has grown [extracting CO2 from the atmosphere] and that we have all eaten as pre-requirement of continuing to breathe, so that we can then [at least have the option to] pay this tax. Overall – minus forests and fossil fuel burnings – we are at equilibrium with biosphere in the carbon cycle. Why would anybody agree to pay such a tax?

    Moreover, this idea is also suggesting that we should pro-rata pay for the right to breathe, whilst still in an operating context that is devoid of arrangements for UNFCCC-compliance [C&C or equivalent] in other words, where once again it defaults to being cheaper to take the climate-hit than prevent it. So once again, why would anybody agree to pay such a tax – we’re all dead anyway.

    More to the point, what on earth is the Royal Society doing providing a platform for ideas of this Ptolemaic geo-centric calibre? Maybe that’s the problem – Geo-Centricity. At best its another ‘EGO-centric’ [Efficiency Gains Only] argument beloved of economists looking to fill Government Piggy Banks by pricing any anythings at the margins.

    As Terry O’Connell has emphasized so often in recent times, making arrangements for UNFCCC-compliance is the first-order name of the game, and this anything but marginal. With their ongoing demand for globality, it was the US who said to that that C&C is ‘the only game in town’ back in 1997: –

    Speculation: – is part of the shift required of us really like a ‘Copernican Revolution’; i.e. to go from Geo-Centric-error to Helio-Centric-reality – like this: –


    For our survival in the 21st Century, negotiating UNFCCC-Compliance needs a second Copernican Revolution. It needs to become UNFCC&C-Centric or ‘solar-centric’. Remaining ‘Earth Centric’ or ‘Geo-Centric’ skews us to the ‘three-body-problem’ with the rhetoric of indecision and always being caught in everyone else’s games.

    Whatever you make of this, plant a tree, support Tree Aid and support Jeremy’s tree-planting and his support for Tree Aid. Its a whole lot more sensible than trying to tax breathing as we go to the wall.

  2. I suppose it’s only a logical conclusion, if you think that monetising something is the only way of valuing it. Just the kind of commodification market-think that makes a revival of the commons so important.

    Sad, and rather disturbing. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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