Forests Ontario

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Planting a Climate Change Solution with 1,000 Trees for Every Global Youth

Posted: September 16, 2019

By Kaitlin, Lauren and David Grierson and Cathy Matthews

Kaitlin and Lauren Grierson at a 2019 tree-planting event in Ajax, Ont. with Rob Keen, CEO of Forests Ontario

In October 2018, leaders of the United Nations’ environment, development, and agriculture departments issued a joint statement declaring that:

“Forests are a major, requisite front of action in the global fight against catastrophic climate change – thanks to their unparalleled capacity to absorb and store carbon. Stopping deforestation and restoring damaged forests could provide up to 30% of the climate solution.

The UN supports a goal to plant one trillion trees. We are 15 year old Canadian twins with a call for global collaboration to help meet this trillion tree goal.

As twins all we know is collaboration. We are also part of the greatest collaboration generation in history. Our generation was born into the digital era. We collaborate across boundaries by sharing, posting, messaging and tweeting. We can also look to the forests for mind-blowing acts of collaboration. The old growth nourishes the new. Forest bacteria, fungi and root systems collaborate too.

In 2016, we started planting trees to take responsibility for our carbon footprint. Having moved from Vancouver to Toronto, we missed the trees of the West Coast. Setting a launch goal of 1000 trees kick-started our learning about forests. Next, we established TreesCO2 to inspire tree planting through action and education. We got help at local community tree planting events with amazing organizations such as Forests Ontario. Forests Ontario showed us how to plant our first tree. They should know, Forests Ontario is now well on their way to planting 50 million trees. Our trees grew and so did we.

We quickly surpassed our goal of 1,000 trees and set a new goal of 1,000 trees each. While 1,000 trees is small, it gave us a pretty big idea. What if there were 1,000 trees planted for every youth in the world?

The UN reports there are approximately 1.2 billion youth in the world aged 15-24. Planting 1,000 trees for each of the world’s youth would exceed the UN’s trillion tree target.

We call this the Global Forest Project: 1,000 trees for every youth in the world through strength based collaboration.

In collaboration with the United Nations Nature-Based Solutions work stream, The Global Forest Project invites all countries, governments, organizations and individuals to contribute according to their strengths. These strengths include reforestation potential, money and human talent.

The maple leaf on Canada’s flag is a clue to one of Canada’s great strengths. An important study by Bastin et al in the July 2019 issue of Science 365, reports that almost 1 of every 10 hectares of global tree restoration potential is in Canada. With over 78 million hectares of Canadian restoration land available, our partner, Forests Ontario, believes Canada has the capacity to plant at least 117 billion trees. Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions per capita are extremely high. Our home country has both a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to plant trees and to play a leading role in climate action.

On September 23rd, the United Nations hosts the 2019 Climate Action Summit in New York. We issue a call to global leaders on behalf of all youth to follow our generation’s lead to collaborate across geographic, economic, political, religious and language boundaries to plant a Global Forest. To plant 1,000 trees for every global youth. To plant our future. Plant a tree. Plant a future.

Toronto high school students Kaitlin and Lauren Grierson are Co-Founders of TreesCO2, Canadian Young Champions for Nature and Co-Ambassadors of Ontario’s Green Leaf Challenge.  They will  participate in the United Nations Climate Action Summit Coalition Meetings, convened by UN Secretary General António Guterres on the weekend of September 21st-22nd in New York. While in New York, Lauren and Kaitlin will also be speakers at the Nature’s Climate Hub’s Big Ideas Talks on Forest and Restoration Action Day,  September 22nd.