All talks about controlling fossil fuels, reducing carbon footprint and even saving the intact forest are seemingly lost in this one-way road to redemption
"Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again," wrote Homer in The Iliad.
Does it echo our doom when trees get cut down or forests are burned in large scale? According to Global Forest Watch, a non-profit organisation that attempts to quantify the losses of trees and their impact on climate, it is surely going to.
A study conducted by the organisation from 2001 to 2018 shows that 361 million hectares of tree cover was lost globally, which is equivalent to a 9 percent decrease since 2000 and lead to 98.7 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions. It seems like we are on a suicidal mission to crack up this planet for real.
Ice caps are melting, temperature has reached the point of no return, ozone layers have holes, and other things that felt like progress and innovation turned out to be sinister to nature anyway.
A study published in the Science journal led by Jean-Francois Bastin stated that planting so many trees could be "the most effective climate change solution to date". The study went viral last summer.
This winter, US President Donald Trump came out as an environmentalist. As CNN calls him the "The American Polluter in Chief", he was hailed at the World Economic Forum (WEF) last month. He also got praise and applause from the latest State of the Union speech for his announcement in joining the WEF's initiative to plant 1 trillion trees to fight climate change.
From his past belief about climate change, this sounds miraculous. Even Greta Thunberg would like to pinch herself for a reality check.
A trillion trees surely sounds like a magic number when global warming is the concern. But, as compelling as it may look, the truth is not as romantic as it sounds. It is merely the stepping stone to a dedicated strategy that might possibly work.
As scientific facts about the solution to climate change started to surface, planting trees is never going to be enough. It can only slow down the warming for a bit but cannot remain as the only solution to the ever-growing overheating problem. It cannot surely fight the upcoming apparent extinction.
Tree plantation campaigns got a boost over the last nine plus months with campaigners ranging from YouTubers to high-profile CEOs of major companies who are trying to get people into an "arboreal" philosophy. This vision went trending throughout 2019, covering all major media headlines, YouTube videos, Facebook posts, events, seminars and of course, tweets.
Scientists argue that planting trees where they are not supposed to be could change the ecological harmony, cause wildfires to become worse and even exacerbate global warming.
The belief that trees are our only hope has half-truth written on it. As these campaigns for tree plantation grow, dozens of scientists have already warned us of the harm of planting too many trees in a short period of time.
A group of scientists led by Joseph Veldman of Texas A&M University are pledging a caution, saying, "We now know those headlines were wrong." They also argued that planting trees where they are not supposed to be could change the ecological harmony, cause wildfires to become worse and "even exacerbate global warming".
These scientists do not speak against planting trees. Rather, they tell a cautionary tale of not all trees being "created equal". The right species of trees must be planted and nurtured to maturity. That is probably going to serve the current "plan" which seems to be very low-tech and popular.
As more people and countries are ushered under this noble platform, there are some darker aspects that tend to get overlooked. This hype has a similarity to a magic trick. Every magic is philosophically a misdirection. Miracles in magic are tricks to let the audience believe in illusions.
The 1 trillion trees initiative also seems like a magic trick. The real problems of the background mechanics of carbon emissions lurk hidden under the fanfare which sounds good on paper. It will allow governments and polluting organisations to deflect their environmental responsibilities.
All talks about controlling fossil fuels, reducing carbon footprint and even saving the intact forests are seem to be getting lost on this one-way road to redemption. Nobody asks what will happen after planting the trillionth tree.
Corporations will probably allow themselves to invent more ways to pollute this planet and so will governments. Alternate voices should be there if this "greenwashing" is the "only" solution that has been fed to us. They will probably get flushed out like the forests.
We cannot afford to lose our intact forests in the name of energy production, livestock breeding or some other needs. Alternate modes of energy production have already emerged – but we need to embrace them.
A natural forest is a complex web of affairs with plants, animals and humans. We cannot just put 1,000 trees in a geo-location and call them a family. Old plants die and newer ones take their place, and that is their natural way.
As our ever-changing world constantly pushes us towards a consumption-based, fake news-trodden and make-believe tales, we need to be more focused on educating kids, adults and technological systems so that we do not fall flat on runway "green plans".
The great Homer seems like the right poet who perfected the world full of terribly interesting people in The Iliad. And we are just that – less lovely and much happier ardent generations marching towards an impending doom without a care in the world.
The end of this planet will be the consequence of our simple and lazy choices.
The author is a senior lecturer at the Central Women's University