People Who Plant Trees… from fictional film to reality

It is a very basic symbiotic relationship: Creatures and Trees.

Trees and carbon

Creatures breathe oxygen and expel carbon dioxide; trees expel oxygen and breathe carbon dioxide. I have sometimes wondered, if the world mobilised a mass tree planting regime, how much carbon would that suck up? Could a worldwide, mega tree-planting ‘backyard blitz’ help much in addressing Climate Change?

In 1987, a 30 minute cartoon won the Academy Award for ‘Best Animated Short Film.’ It was called, ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’. Many who watched it asked: Is it a true story? Where is it set? Although it is beautifully inspiring, (and I would 100% recommend watching), it is not based on a true story – it is a work of fiction.  

Yet flash forward 20-odd years… and we find that… ‘People Are Planting Trees’… and like the film, from small, simple first steps, they end up achieving phenomenal results. 

(1)  Akira Miyawaki.  Akira Miyawaki  is an 86 year old Japanese scientist who has planted ~40 million trees. Winning the prestigious ‘Blue Planet Prize’ in 2006, he is considered one of the greatest of the ‘Men Who Plant Trees’.  He is still working now; recently developing a clever way to use trees to buffer people from the effects of  Tsunamis.

(2)  Shubhendu Sharma. Shubhendu Sharma used to work at a Toyota car manufacturing centre in India. In 2008, he witnessed Akira Miyawaki arrive and plant a forest on Toyota’s grounds. Shubhendu was so inspired that he made a career change, launching the company ‘Afforestt’, which applies Miyawaki’s ‘accelerated’ forest building methods. Afforestt is now spreading the ‘People Who Plant Trees‘ movement even further. See Blog post.

(3)  Germaine GreerGermaine Greer‘s book, ‘White Beech’ tells of her journey to restore part of the Gondwana rainforest in Queensland, Australia – particularly its  magnificent native ‘White Beech‘ trees. Once plentiful in Australia, White Beech forests had been almost completely wiped out as their wood proved to be a near perfect building material. Given the rather complicated ecosystem preconditions needed for White Beeches to thrive, experts warned Greer not to expect too much success.  However, against many odds, the White Beech DID make a comeback. This is a hopeful story of how “an old woman with creaky knees and shockingly arthritic feet,” – who knew little about forests nor ecosystem science – was nonetheless able to restore a rainforest and help recuperate the White Beech. It suggests the quietly thrilling prospect that, given a chance and a little bit of support, that even natural systems on the brink of extinction, might regenerate. 

Aside from these pioneering and energetic ‘Individuals Who Plant Trees‘, there are also many ‘Community Groups Who Plant Trees‘, such as ‘Greening Australia‘ or ‘Friends of Merri Creek’. They operate on a smaller scale; quietly restoring a patch of land here, and another one there. The good thing is, however, that there are many of them.

When I remind myself of the co-dependent relationship that exists between Creatures (them, you, me, us…) and Trees…. I find that when I walk past a tree, or look at one outside my window, that I cannot help but offer them a silent nod…of recognition and thanks….




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