A million trees planted. What next?

27 March 2019 2 minute read

Pupils from Dormers Wells outside St Thomas’ hospital. Credit: Nathalie Weatherald

On 20th March 2019, we planted our millionth tree. This of course is a huge achievement, and at times like these it strikes a chord, and reminds us that there is much more to do. 

The tree, a disease resistant elm, has found its home on the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital, Westminster. Standing opposite the Houses of Parliament, this tree is a symbol of what can be done by people wanting to make a positive change, and around 100,000 have helped us plant the 999,999 before this one.  

This was a milestone worth celebrating, and Sir Michael Palin, an old friend of ours came along to plant the tree with us, over 20 years after he planted his first in Gospel Oak. He said:

By planting these trees we celebrate something we all love and cherish. Something that brings communities together, and actively work to address pollution, and the stress of living in our cities. This is something we can all agree is a good thing, so let’s celebrate the millionth good thing!

Sir Michael Palin

Sir Michael Palin. Credit: Nathalie Weatherald

A million trees is a staggering amount, but we never intended to stop there. So, straight after it was planted, we got onto the millionth and first. One generation passed the baton to another, with pupils from Dormers Wells Infants School planting the first of a new breed of urban trees in the hospital playground, a reminder that today’s children are growing into the future leaders and decision makers that will take on responsibility for the planet. 

And they’re already taking the mantle. In 2018, Greta Thunberg spearheaded the first strike for the climate outside the Riksdagshuset, the house of Sweden’s parliament. On 15th March, only a few months after Greta’s first strike, she was joined by over a million more young people in 2,000 cities across the globe. Together they marched to make it clear that “we need to treat the climate crisis as a crisis”

Credit: Nathalie Weatherald

When air quality is declining, temperatures are rising, and a water shortage is predicted to befall us in as little as 25 years, action is needed. And there is room to make it happen. Recent research found that there is space on the earth’s surface to plant 1.2 trillion new trees that could absorb more carbon than humans produce each year. On top of this, these trillion trees would improve biodiversity, providing a home to countless species, ease soil erosion in parts of the world where local communities depend on farming to provide for themselves and their families, curb a water shortage so we can still have access to a vital resource, and so much more. We need more trees, so we will keep planting them. 

150 young people from the global coordination group of the climate strike issued an open letter saying “the youth of this world has started to move and we will not rest again”. Their message is one to listen to, and planting trees is part of a well-reasoned response.

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