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April 6, 2023

The Tree Planting Series III. – Is it worth to plant trees?

Photo by diana plotkin on Pexels.

In my first article on the topic of tree planting I dove into the reasons why I started tree planting, and some hardships of planting as a rookie.

My second article dives deeper into planting itself, focusing on the mental and physical aspects of planting high numbers.

This third post will focus on the logging industry itself and how planting may not be all that it seems.

These do not need to be read chronologically, feel free to hop to the post(s) you’re most interested in!

Every time I visit home and share my personal bests, how many trees I planted in a season, or crazy planting stories, everyone always seems to be so interested in what I do. But the question I am being asked the most often is — does planting trees actually worth it? It’s a fair question actually, to understand why we even bother to plant trees in the first place.

I realized none of this until my first day in the field. As I grabbed my gear and started to walk down the dirt road, my boot sunk into mud. Everywhere I looked was brown wasteland; dead moss, heaps of branches, and tree trunks littered the land. On the horizon, lone trees that the loggers left standing, swaying in the wind, most of them looked dead. Apart from that the only movement I saw was spiders, toads and mice running in the debris. Some bird flocks passed above us, making weird noises but no other animals seemed to be far away from where we were planting. The bitter truth hit me, despite we are planting a forest here, we will never actually plant a forest here. Rather a tree farm.

Another time, we moved to an island where we had to do a so called ‘beat up’, where we walk along the lines others planted about a year ago, cleaned the bush around the trees so they can get light and replant the trees that died. There was a whole plot where out of 500 trees only 2 survived (but they did very well). I started to wonder how many of my planted trees will survive? Maybe they will live next year, but how about the year after? Or after? Our foreman reassured me I don’t need to worry, I get pain for those trees and it isn’t my fault if they die out because of too much rain or too dry summer or whatever other reason. Thanks, that wasn’t was I meant but good to know that, too. It would just feel so much better to know that what I planted will survive and the trees might stand there for even a century.

So, does planting trees work? It depends howyou define “work”. It works in a sense that you get paid for it and if you are a good planter you can make  a lot of money. So that works.

From the other hand, if you mean if it’s worth the effort and the hard work to plant all those trees… well, it might vary. When the trees get four to five years old, they begin dropping their own seeds, and naturally re-plant the land.

That sounds like it’s worth it but then, when these trees grow big enough, in about 80 years or so they will log the tree farm we planted, so it will never turn into an actual forest where animals can find their homes. So is it worth it then? Not really, in my opinion.

But then, people need firewood so they better cut down the tree farm we planted for the timber then to cut out actual forest, causing the animals losing their natural habitats.

And then some asks, what and to who does this matter to anyways? In 80 years, if I’m alive, I’d be 112 years old, so most likely I won’t see it but our grandchildren should see forest with all the magnificent animals in it.

As I muse on these thoughts in the coffee shop where I love to come to write my articles, I watch the couple across from me grab their plastic leftover takeout containers, and throw their unused brown napkins into the garbage bin.

So I wonder… Planting does a lot but it does very little, if we continue to live the way we do. We cannot rely on the tree planting to ease our consciousness of losing forest. Deforestation rates exist at the levels they do to meet global demand. There is much to reform in deforestation policy, but there is equally as much to do when it comes to educating the public on the effects of their standards of living.

Then maybe in 80 years those trees we planted on the tree farm won’t need to be cut down  but could live out their full 400 year lifespans.

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