By Huijia Phua, Co-Founder

When I first read the headlines of this article shared by a peer who also graduated from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Management, I was shocked. It seemed almost sacrilegious to declare a halt to tree-planting. Was this article written by some anti-climate change activist or tree-hater?? It piqued my interest enough to read on.

After I finished reading the article, I was not just appeased, but pleased. So the writer is not against tree planting per se, he is an advocate of SMART tree planting - tree planting carried out with the advice of experts in horticulture, with an action plan to ensure accountability (for example, what is the survival rate of all the trees you've planted?) and proper maintenance by trained manpower. There is tree planting, and there is tree planting. 

Given that so much time and effort goes into tree planting (just ask anyone who's been sent out to plant trees in the hot sun), shouldn't we know more about WHAT we're planting, WHY these species of trees are chosen, HOW they will be maintained and WHO will be maintaining them? I know we send hundreds of of school children to plant trees in our neighboring countries - but are they guided by experts in ecology and horticulture? Do they have manpower trained to monitor the impact of the trees after they have been planted? I think we need to make sure that we ask these questions before we embark on a tree-planting mission. In my opinion, having just a local community or village to 'maintain' the trees isn't enough. A system needs to be set in place, and results need to be tracked and reported publicly.

I feel that far too many groups support or provide 'tree planting' opportunities without sufficient accountability; when I browse their websites I noticed that they do not follow up on such efforts and report the survival rate of these trees, let alone any other pertinent information. 

(Also, I found it slightly amusing - even offensive - that the author perceives tree-planting as 'intellectual laziness', but I do concede and recognize that it is far more valuable to teach our students the intellectual tools and knowledge to come up with solutions to our climate change challenges, rather than just sending them out to plant trees. Of course a combination of expert guidance and hands on application would be best.  I see from his perspective that we may be teaching them that if you make certain lifestyle choices that impact the environment, the easy way out is just to plant trees to compensate for your 'mistakes'. How we wish life was that simple!)

It is far too easy to create projects for participants to engage in - the challenge comes in sustaining and ensuring that such projects have sustainability and continued impact far beyond the participants' efforts. So perhaps we should reconsider success as not how many trees we planted - but how many survived.

Thoughts? Please share them below! And read the full article here.

Sharing from Educators (Thanks for sharing your thoughts!) - from our Facebook Page:

1. Plant native species

2. Trees chosen should help restore/ enhance natural landscape.

3. Get local community involvement, learn together on how to care of the trees and their impact on the environment.