Opinion |  – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times


Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…William DeShazer for The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — After what seemed like 100 years of impeachments hearings, anything uttered on Capitol Hill now sounds to my ear like the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher. Nevertheless, a few words from President Trump’s State of the Union address managed to break through the wah-wahs last week: “To protect the environment, days ago, I announced the United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, an ambitious effort to bring together government and the private sector to plant new trees in America and around the world,” he said.

Could it really be true?

You will forgive me for thinking there’s no way it could be true. The whole point of the World Economic Forum’s One Trillion Trees initiative is to reduce carbon in the environment and slow the rate of climate change by growing and preserving a trillion trees, worldwide, by 2050. But instead of addressing climate change, the Trump administration has rolled back or weakened 95 environmental protections already on the books.

The burning of fossil fuels is the leading cause of climate change, but much of this administration’s hostility to environmental protections is a result of its commitment to promoting the fossil fuel industry: allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other public landsapproving construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, encouraging more offshore drilling in the Atlantic. The Trump administration has even gutted the popular Endangered Species Act, which was passed with strong bipartisan support at a time in history when the word “bipartisan” was not an oxymoron. Is it any surprise that the Environmental Protection Agency is now widely known among conservationists as the Environmental Destruction Agency?

I’m trying to figure out how this business with trees might be different. Did the president experience a Scrooge-like conversion at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, with the brilliant Jane Goodall, who supports the One Trillion Trees initiative, playing the role of Marley? If so, it would be a conversion narrative more potent than any since St. Paul was struck down by a blinding light on the road to Damascus. Paul went from persecuting Christians to becoming the faith’s most famous evangelist, responsible for the spread of Christianity around the ancient Western world. Donald Trump’s conversion to environmental sanity could be the start of saving the world itself.”

alan haigh
carmel, ny

If you say you want to plant more trees you offend no one in the world of commerce. If you are a politician who says you want to protect forests with a real plan, you will be destroyed. If you say that human beings have a moral obligation to defend forests and the species that rely on them, including but not exclusively sapiens, you will be ridiculed. If you point out that the human population has tripled in about 70 years you will be ignored.

Please don’t write about trees and ignore their true context- the forests, which are being destroyed at even a faster rate than the population of humans on this planet increases, pushing out so much of everything else. How much forest is destroyed to create food for every new human being, who consumes food and the very products that are warming and otherwise poisoning our planet? In the next day, a net “gain” of 200,000 people will join us on our shrinking planet- they will not live in forests but will accelerate their destruction.

Save trees by, first of all, stabilizing the human population. Until we do that all else is futile. Why isn’t that an obvious truth to all of us, including you, MS Renkl? You can’t really save the trees without saving the forests.

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