COLUMN

$20 million by 2020 and 20 million trees by 2022.

That’s the goal set by YouTubers. YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson — also known as Mr. Beast — recently partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to launch the #TeamTrees campaign. For every one dollar donated, a sapling will be planted. He set an ambitious target of $20 million by the end of the year.

Rightfully, this campaign is being treated as more than another internet challenge. Remarkably, the sum of donations is over halfway there just weeks after the campaign went public. When this column was written, more than $13 million have been contributed. The environment is at the forefront of conversation, as it should have been for years.

We’ve all been fretting about keeping the global temperature increase under two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, per the Paris Agreement . Voters pay attention to climate change policies when determining their front-running presidential candidate. We have climate strikes and we support activists, such as Greta Thunberg. But we have felt relatively helpless in the face of the climate crisis.

It feels as though we waited too long to pay attention to the needs of our home planet, and the destructive impact we’ve had on it is irreversible. Unless we also curb carbon emissions, a tree on every square foot of land is not going to cancel out negative effects on the environment. That is not to say we shouldn’t donate; I donated a few dollars of my own. Planting trees throughout the world will absolutely have a positive impact. It just might not be fast enough.

team trees

As much as we would like to take the issue of climate change into our own hands when politicians are slow to act, government regulations are necessary. Without strict emission caps on corporations, trees may not be able to negate the toxins in the atmosphere.

Once 20 million trees are planted, the mission is not complete. It likely never will be. We have to continue to urge politicians to collaborate for the sake of the planet, we have to keep innovating to conserve energy and reduce waste, and we have to take accountability for the damage humans have done to the Earth so it may be atoned for to the greatest possible extent.

That said, the #TeamTrees campaign is positive and worthy of applause. Trees clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and other pollutants while releasing oxygen. Their shade conserves energy by reducing the need for air conditioning. They provide a home to wildlife.

By saying that planting trees is not enough, I do not mean we shouldn’t plant them. We absolutely should. But we do need to do more. While it is fun, the campaign to plant 20 million trees should be taken seriously. It will have real-world effects on more than your social media if you donate. Plus, you get to say you donated trees to the Earth. How cool is that? By giving a little green, you can contribute to a greener Earth.

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