If You Fly, Plant Some Trees. No Excuses


Greta is hammering on the doors of world leaders demanding immediate action to mitigate catastrophic climate change. She’s knocking on my door too, and on yours.

There’s a big elephant in the room and it’s wearing a baggage tag. We try to be good little environmentalists. We recycle, we compost. We carry cloth shopping bags, carpool and indignantly refuse plastic straws.  We buy local, seasonal foods. But at the drop of a passport we hop on a plane several times a year, generating a huge, filthy carbon footprint with each journey.

Now this an embarrassing elephant and it’s not going to just wander offstage and out of sight. We need to travel for work, to connect with family, for visa runs and yes, just for pleasure.  Chances are we don’t have a friend with a carbon-neutral yacht to ferry us around.  Even if we did, I get seasick just looking at a tilting horizon.

Dramatically and immediately cutting fossil fuel emissions will help slow climate change. So will planting forests. According to Glen Peters, research director at Norway’s Center for International Climate Research, large-scale CO2 removal through reforestation will help offset emissions from sectors like aviation where alternatives are not yet available, and perhaps help lower temperatures.

Tropical forests absorb more carbon than temperate forests, and these tropical forests are being rapidly destroyed by cutting and burning.  Indonesia, home of one of the biggest tropical forests in the world, has seen massive destruction in recent decades.

The Indonesian students who are rioting across the country have many demands.  Keeping the government out of their bedrooms is a minor one.  One major demand is to end the burning of forests in Kalimantan and Sumatra, to punish corporations responsible for fires and revoke their permits.

Indonesia’s history of reforestation is long but there is no happy ending.  I decided not to include details here because it’s just too damned depressing. For the full story on how much money has been spent and how little land has been reforested in Indonesia since 2004, go to news.mongabay.com/2019/01/funds-tripled-and-target-slashed-but-indonesia-still-off-pace-for-reforestation/.

When a government project plants trees here, there is always plenty of fanfare, long speeches and pictures in the media.  But that fragile sapling needs to be watered, mulched, fertilized and protected from grazing animals for at least two years until it’s strong enough to survive on its own.  Almost always, the crowd disperses after the journalists leave and the young trees are left to wither and die at the end of the first rainy season.  Yes, hundreds of thousands of trees were planted.  But how many survive? Very few.  One issue around this is the lack of participation with local communities where reforestation takes place. Until now they were seldom consulted on the kinds of trees to be planted, or given a role in monitoring their growth. Without such participation they have little sense of ownership in the program and no incentive to support it.

Mines account for much forest destruction across Indonesia and although legally they are obliged to replant the land, currently less than 10 percent of disused mines in Indonesia have been rehabilitated. Companies tend to bide their time and wait until their permits are about to expire before they fulfill their obligations.

So trees. Lots of trees. Let’s stop pretending we’re not part of the problem, and become an active part of the solution.  If you fly and don’t already buy carbon offset credits, please consider planting trees.  How many?  I propose that every year we plant our age in trees.

Calculate your approximate carbon footprint here www.reforestaction.com/en/carbon-calculator which will also tell you how many trees need to be planted to offset the carbon.  My two international flights a year and very modest use of my car added up to 6000 kg of carbon, or 41 trees.   But I’m going to plant 68 – my age – anyway.

I have been researching transparent NGOs which will plant trees for me in Indonesia.  Since I’ve been writing about the Friends of the National Parks Foundation (FNPF) for many years now, I took a look at their reforestation project in Borneo.  I knew they do excellent work in rehabilitating and releasing wildlife, have established a successful Bali Starling sanctuary on Nusa Penida and an orangutan conservation project in Kalimantan.  I learned that FNPF also has  active habitat reforestation programs in Central Borneo’s Tanjung Puting National Park, the largest national park in Southeast Asia, and in Lamandau River Wildlife Reserve. 

They plant native species both on park land and in the buffer zone around Tanjung Puting National Park. For each sponsored 100 square metres, at least 15 trees are planted and maintained for three years at a cost of just USD 50. Certificates are issued which include photos of the trees sponsored, the total number of the trees and the GPS location of the planting site. Larger areas of 100,000 trees/year can be sponsored at a cost of US$1.50 per tree.  One Tree Planted works with FNPF on a project to plant 100,000 saplings in and around the park.  Because the density is higher than normal, these trees can be planted and maintained for US$1.

The work includes seed and seedling collection, filling polybags with growing media, transplanting the seedlings,  planting and post planting maintenance (weeding, mulching, monitoring, replanting if necessary) for three years. Volunteers are welcome to join the activity. 

The reforestation team battled forest fires for weeks but the rains have now begun and planting will continue until about January. For more information visit www.fnpf.org/what-we-do/tanjung-puting-national-park/habitat.

The two following organizations are planting mangroves: The Eden project plants coastal mangrove forests in West Papua. edenprojects.org/indonesia/.  Reforest’Action is partnering with the Indonesian NGO Yagasu to restore the mangroves in northern Sumatra. www.reforestaction.com/en/indonesia.

Plant trees, people.  A few mouse clicks is all it takes.  Plant your age in trees, the ages of your kids and parents.  We’re not planting them for ourselves, but for our children’s children.

By Ibu Kat

E-mail:  ibukatbali@gmail.com

Copyright © 2019 Greenspeak

You can read all past articles of Greenspeak at www.BaliAdvertiser.biz

Ibu Kat’s book of stories

Bali Daze – Free-fall off the Tourist Trail  and Retired, Rewired – Living Without Adult

Supervision in Bali are available from Ganesha Books  and on Kindle