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Billion Tree Campaign logo
Dec 2011

Billion Tree Campaign handover to young generation

On 7 December, 2011, at the end of the International Year of Forests, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) handed over the Billion Tree Campaign to the children of Plant-for-the-Planet.

Inspired by Wangari Maathai and launched in 2006 by the UN Environment Programme. The campaign catalysed tree planting action on all continents. The billionth tree, an African Olive, was planted in Ethiopia in November 2007. In 2008, the campaign's target was raised to seven billion trees.

The campaign has found many supporters in the corporate world, governments and many non-governmental organisations like the World Organization of the Scouts Movement, and the UN Peacekeeping missions.

Plant-for-the-Planet had been a member of the Billion Tree Campaign since 2007. Under its roof, children all around the world planted millions of trees. The move of the Billion Tree Campaign from New York to Munich shows an acknowledgement of the right of the young generation to own – and secure – their own future. Now it's children to watch over the grown-ups that they too plant their trees and don't spend the resources on their favourite game: corruption.

The current goal is 13 billion trees.

See: Billion Tree Campaign

string: Moving UN speech by Felix Finkbeiner

'Forest Hero' Shigeatsu Hatakeyama. © Ryo Murakami/UNU
Dec 2011

Forests 'activate' coastal seas

Already decades ago, Katsuhiko Matsunaga, a marine chemist at Hokkaido University in Japan, discovered that when tree leaves decompose, they leech acids into the ocean that help fertilize plankton. And when plankton thrives, so does the rest of the food chain. [1]

This was put into good practice by Japanese fisherman Mr Shigeatsu Hatakeyama who inherited an oyster farm business from his parents. But the waters in Kesennuma Bay in Miyagi, Japan, had become unsuitable for oyster cultivation after an outbreak of red tide plankton. On a trip to France in 1984, Mr Hatakeyama saw healthy oysters in the Loire river estuary and noticed a vast deciduous broadleaf forest upriver. He made the connection and he realized the positive influence forests have on ocean ecology and biodiversity.

Back home, he held the first Mori wa Umi no Koibito (Forests are Lovers of the Sea) campaign in 1989: with other fishermen he planted broadleaf trees upstream along the Okawa River to reduce pollutants flowing into the sea. These afforestation activities became an annual event and have since gained momentum – so far, more than 50,000 trees have been planted. It has led to a region-wide proactive movement to preserve the environment, including water drainage regulation and promoting farming practices with less agricultural chemicals. [2] [3]

Mr Hatakeyama became known as 'Grandpa Oyster' after spending more than twenty years developing the forest that keeps the Okawa River clean and his thriving oysters healthy.
In 2009, he established another Forests are Lovers of the Sea programme which provides hands-on education for children, bringing them closer to the ocean and the forest.

He has now received a Forest Heroes Award from the UN International Year of Forests 2011 committee.

[1] Jim Robbins, Why Trees Matter, NY Times, April 11, 2012
[2] Asia & Japan Watch
[3] UN Forest Heroes Award

Wangari Maathai. © Green Belt Movement
Sept 2011

Wangari Maathai has died

Wangari Muta Maathai (born 1 April 1940, the Kenyan environmental and political activist, died on 25 September 2011 of complications from ovarian cancer. In the 1970s, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women's rights. So far, over 51 million trees have been planted, and over 30,000 women trained in trades such as forestry, food processing and bee-keeping. Many communities not only in Kenya have been motivated to both prevent further environmental destruction and restore that which has been damaged.

In 2004, Wangari Maathai received the Nobel Peace Prize.


Here's a tribute video

Related articles
Felix Finkbeiner delivering his speech at the UN headquarters. © Plant-for-the-Planet
Feb 2011

Moving UN speech by Felix Finkbeiner

2011 was proclaimed by the UN as the International Year of Forests. At the opening ceremony in New York, 13-year-old Felix Finkbeiner addresses the UN with a moving speech, demanding of the grown-ups to care for the planet und give the younger generations a future.

Felix was nine years old when he founded the children's initiative Plant for the Planet in Bavaria in 2007. Plant for the Planet grew rapidly into a world-wide movement and in the first four and a half years of its existence over 3.8 million trees were planted.

Watch video on UN Media

Comment by Fred Hageneder: 'To some viewers, the auditorium at Felix's UN speech might seem half empty but to me it is half full. I compare it with an event about five years previously, when the UN had agreed, for once, to give the indigenous nations of the world some speech time. Some 5,000 indigenous nations, most of them more or less threatened by ecocide or even genocide, were granted 5 minutes (!) speech time. As ambassador they chose a 12-year-old boy from Central America. His brilliant talk was greeted by low attendance, boredom and ignorance. The camera showed delegates engaged in paper scribbles, finger-tapping or impatiently checking their watches. It was torture to watch. Hence I am rather happy with the reception of Felix's message. Times have moved on!'

string: Billion Tree Campaign handover to young generation

Bishop of London planting a yew tree. © Bankside Press
July 2010

Bishop of London plants yew tree at Lambeth Palace

On Sunday, 11 July, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, planted a yew tree in the gardens of Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Bishop Richard chairs Shrinking the Footprint, the Church of England's national environment campaign. The campaign will be piloted in the Canterbury, Rochester and Southwark dioceses which together have 118 veteran and ancient churchyard yews between them.

The planting was witnessed by environment officers and other diocesan representatives, and was also an expression to celebrate the UN International Year of Biodiversity. The tree was donated by the Conservation Foundation, which had conducted a campaign to plant 7,000 Millennium Yew cuttings ten years previous. The Conservation Foundation and the Ancient Yew Group are pressing for yew trees over 500 years old to be given formal protection.

'Every diocese in the Church of England now has environmental issues on its agenda and today has been a real encouragement to hear about the considerable amount going on throughout the Church here and elsewhere proving that the Church has a very real role to play not just in saving energy, but biodiversity and other environmental issues,' said Bishop Richard.

'Planting a Millennium Yew tree in Lambeth Palace Garden is a reminder of the Church's long heritage of caring for God's creation and its commitment through Shrinking the Footprint to the International Year of Biodiversity.'

source: London SE1 community website: Bishop of London plants yew tree at Lambeth Palace

Logo der Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall
June 2010

The Great Green Wall of Africa

The Great Green Wall (French: Grande Muraille verte) Spanish Gran Muralla Verde is a project to halt the spread of the South Sahara. The transcontinental belt is planned to be 15km (nine miles) wide and 7,775km (4,831 miles) long and will be made completely of trees. This equals the reforestation of 15 million hectares of land.

The project is held by the African Union and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF)*. An inter states organization was established to effectively implement the project in each of the eleven member states.

* The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an independent financial organization uniting 182 member governments, in partnership with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector, to address global environmental issues. According to their website, they are the largest funder of projects to improve the global environment, having allocated US$8.8 billion, supplemented by US$38.7 billion in co-financing, to more than 2,400 projects in more than 165 countries.

Landkarte Sahel

On 17 June 2010, the GEF announced that Africa's green barrier will be funded by a US$119 million grant. The project had long been searching for funding: it had begun to take shape in 2005, the idea first appeared in 2002 and can be traced back to projects fighting desertification in Burkina Faso under president Thomas Sankara. Inspirations are the (more decentrally organized) Green Belt Movement initiated by Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and the Green Wall of China (see tree news Jan. 2010).

source: Great Green Wall website

Anne Frank's tree fallen. © Elzinga/AP
Feb 2010

Anne Frank's chestnut tree will bloom again

The tree that once gave Anne Frank solace when she was hiding from the Nazis fell on Monday, Aug 23rd 2010, during a storm in Amsterdam. But cuttings had been taken and will be planted as unique tree memorials across the USA and Canada.

On 23 February 1944, Anne Frank wrote about the tree:

'Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs, from my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy.'

Tree News, issue 18, spring 2010;
Canada Newswire
'Anne Frank tree' in Wikipedia

Tamarisk trees (Tamarix articulata) in the Sahara. © RosaFrei/
Jan 2010

Great Green Wall of China is growing

The Great Green Wall of China is the biggest afforestation project in the history of humankind. The 'Wall' is going to be a woodland belt about 2,800 miles (4,500 km) long which is hoped to halt the desertification of whole regions of China. 28 per cent of the land surface of China is threatened by desertification, which jeopardizes the livelihood of 100 million people. Gigantic dust storms sweep over vast areas bordering the Gobi Desert (located in the north of the country. Extending desert heat has already risen average temperatures in Peking by a few degrees Celsius. Japan, North Korea and South Korea too suffer from sand storms coming over from China.

The reasons for desertification are, like in the other continents, anthropogenic, i.e. human-made:
• increased land use overburdens the soil, depleting it of nutrients and breaking down its structure;
• overgrazing and deforestation decrease plant cover, the ground loses its firmness and becomes subject to erosion by wind and rain;
• since the foundation of the People's Republic in 1949, industrialization has shown an ever-increasing hunger for fuel which has been satisfied by tree felling (until 1978, forest cover in China had fallen from eight to five per cent!);
• growing water consumption of the industry, agriculture and increasing population contributes further to the desertification of vast areas.

Forests are generally perceived as the best countermeasure against desertification of entire regions.
The work on the Green Wall of China began in 1978. So far, protective forests have been planted in thirteen provinces of China, covering 22 million hectares (220,000 sq. km – the size of the main island of Britain; the size of Kansas or Idaho) altogether. This already prevents 200 million tons of desert sand from spreading onto non-desert land annually. But an actual inversion of the annual desert area increase could not be measured until the years from 2000 to 2004.
In 2009, China's afforestation program had increased forest cover to 18 per cent of the republic's land area.
In 2050, the Green Wall of China is scheduled to be completed, with a total area of 35 million hectares (350.000 sq. km).

Because monocultures can easily succumb to pests and diseases, the focus is on mixed woodlands. But pastures too are considered a part fo the Green Wall. The Chinese people are legally obligated to direct participation: every citizen between 11 and 60 years of age has to plant three to five trees annually (or pay a fine).

In 2003, China began to restructure its forest sector. Now, single farmers are allowed to lease woodlands and get their rights certified on paper. The leaseholders are now registered as the owners of the trees they planted. They are entitled to manage these youg woodlands, with certain restrictions. In this way the reform has created an incentive for farmers to invest in tree planting. [1]

The genus Tamarix deserves special mention in the fight against the desert. The tamarisk has been called the guard soldier of the desert because it is resistent against sand storms and even grows on salt or chalk soils. Already in the 1960s the botanist Prof Liu Mingting researched and cultivated tamarisks – and planted
them on 100,000 hectares of saline desert and semi-desert in Kashgar Prefecture (Xinjiang). Since then, the ground has become fertile soil again, corn and cotton are grown widely, and the income per head has risen fourfold. [2] (compare tree news June 2009: Amazon deforestation fails to improve local life)

[1] Wikipedia about the Great Green Wall of China
[2] Ein Tamarisken-Forscher (German)
see also tree news: The Great Green Wall of Africa

SM Raju at a tree-planting site. © Prashant Ravi
Sept 2009

Massive tree-planting scheme in India

An Indian civil servant, SM Raju, has created an innovative project to provide 'sustainable employment' to millions of poor people, by planting trees.

Mr Raju's campaign is located in the east Indian state of Bihar, the poorest state of India, and engages people in afforestation which, according to the BBC, 'addresses two burning issues of the world: global warming and shrinking job opportunities. Evidence of Mr Raju's success could clearly be seen on 30 August, when he organised 300,000 villagers from over 7,500 villages in northern Bihar to engage in a mass tree planting ceremony.' On this day alone, almost a billion trees were planted.

Mr Raju is an agriculture graduate from Bangalore but the secret of the success of his 'social forestry' programme is that he linked it to the central government's National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). This act was initiated in February 2006 as an employment generation scheme for poor people: the authorities are bound by law to provide a minimum of 100 days of employment a year to members of families living below the poverty line. But before Mr Raju's project, Bihar had not been able to spend the allocated NREGA funds.

'Every village council has now been given a target of planting 50,000 saplings – a group of four families has to plant 200 seedlings and they must protect them for three years till the plants grow more sturdy.' Payment is staggered into three groups, 90%, 75–80% and less than 75% survival rate of the seedlings.

The scheme also includes planting fruit-trees inside the villages.

source: Amarnath Tewary, Meeting India's tree planting guru, BBC News, 19 Sept 2009

Unblock Our Future banner. © UK Youth Climate Coalition
April 2009

Youth for a clean, fair future

In spring 2009, Kersty Schneeberger as spokesperson for the UK Youth Climate Coalition delivered an amazing speech at the United Nations climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany. 'How old will you be in 2050?' is her message to wake up the older-generation decision-makers that there, in fact, exist generations who come after them and who will inherit the planetary mess the elders are still making now.

Kersty co-founded Think2050, an intergenerational equity consultancy, and also DECC's (Dept. of Energy and Climate Change) Youth Advisory Panel of which she is the co-ordinator. As a trainee lawyer and director of a coalition of academics and legal professionals, she seeks to establish an International Court for the Environment.

'We are part of a global movement of young people who will no longer be accused of apathy.'
-- Kersty Schneeberger

links: UK Youth Climate Coalition
World Peace Festival