I was writing up some details about Wangari Maathai’s life this week, for a talk that I’m preparing. If you’re not familiar with Maathai, she was a formidable Kenyan woman who set up the Green Belt Movement of community tree planters. The organisation has planted 50 million trees since its founding in the late 7os, and along the way encouraged countless communities to take pride in their land and work towards restoring it. Her holistic vision of conservation, empowerment and development earned Maathai the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
I was reading some of her interviews, and I came across this great statement about our personal responsibility for our own carbon:
“We need at least 10 trees to take care of our own carbon dioxide, and so if you don’t have 10 trees somewhere where you can say ‘these are my trees,’ you are using somebody else’s tree, and you ought to get up and plant your own.”
That’s a wonderfully direct challenge, and it immediately made me wonder if I have ten trees to my name. On reflection, I definitely do. I have some in the back garden, some in the local park, some in other parts of the world, and many that I have paid for but not planted myself. I’m working on a funding application at the moment that might scoop me a few more around the town. But I don’t have ten trees in one place, and I would like to be able to say ‘these are my trees’. I should plant some more.
So where are your trees? And if you haven’t got at least ten, where are you going to plant some? If you haven’t got the land for it yourself, I suggest making a donation to TreeAid. Of if you want to support a forest in Kenya that I know and love, some friends of mine look after it through the Kijabe Forest Trust.
By the way, that ten trees is for your personal needs – not for your entire carbon footprint. That’s what we need to produce oxygen and re-use the CO2 we breathe out. If you’re planning to drive or fly or meat beef or do any other kind of living, you need more trees!