Adding to Trump Forest, one mangrove propagule at a time. Picture: Eden Reforestation Project.
There’s a moment when you first hear the words ‘Trump Forest’ when you think, could it be? Could he have? The answer is, of course, he hasn’t. Trump Forest is categorically not part of Donald Trump’s business portfolio, which currently includes Trump Towers, Trump International Hotels and Trump Model Management.
“For us, calling the campaign Trump Forest was very clear cut,” muses co-founder and political scientist Jeff Willis.
“From the beginning, it was frustration with him. When he announced he was going to pull out of the Paris Agreement, that frustration hit peak levels. We wanted to start a project that drew attention to his ignorance of climate issues and that gave people a concrete way of expressing their frustration – in a positive way.”
Founded in March by Willis, glaciologist Daniel Price and Adrien Taylor, Trump Forest is a crowd-funded campaign to plant enough trees to offset Trump’s catastrophic climate policies. The aim is 10bn trees by December 24, 2017, to make up for the extra 650 million tonnes of CO2 that will be released into the atmosphere by 2025.
So far, 766,625 trees have been pledged from 2,687 donors. If the campaign is to succeed, they must plant enough trees to fill at least 104,659 sq km, the same size as the US state of Kentucky. (England is 130,279 sq km).
The campaigners believe it can be done. “It’s clearly a big challenge, but only recently the world record was broken when India put 66m trees in the ground in a day,” Price told the Guardian earlier this year. “If we all chip in, it is a completely realistic goal,”
The project combines the practical response of tree-planting with a poignant symbolism “Yes, that’s something we thought about,” says Willis, citing as additional inspiration a huge forest fire that devastated areas outside their hometown, Christchurch in New Zealand, last year.
“The first thousand trees we planted for Trump Forest was to replant those areas,” he says. “In that sense, having that sort of on-the-ground local impact and seeing it revitalise a section of our home town, brought home what a Trump Forest project could look like on a symbolic level.”
People can contribute in two ways to Trump Forest: either by buying trees from their preferred tree-planting organisation anywhere in the world and sending Trump Forest the receipt so they can count their pledge, or by donating directly to their partner, the Eden Reforestation Projects.
Donating $1 through the Trump Forest website buys eight mangrove trees in Madagascar.
Eden Reforestation hires local villagers to plant trees. Picture: Eden Projects.
The partnership with Eden gives added ethical value to the forest project. Launched in 2004, Eden Reforestation hires local villagers to plant trees, giving them a decent income so that they can provide for their families and encouraging them to reinvest in their environment.
“We’re really happy to be working [with Eden],” says Willis. “They work holistically with communities on the ground in Nepal, Haiti, Ethiopia and Madacasgar, planting these trees in a sustainable way and in ways that tackle poverty reduction.”
Trump has not yet made a comment about the campaign. Perhaps not enough hours in the early morning.
“We’d love him to tweet about it – whether he loves it or hates it,” says Jeff. “If he loves it, that’s great. We get more trees in the ground. If he hates it, that’s great. Because we get more trees in the ground.”
Debate about the name continues: tribute or ultimate send-up?
“It’s fairly evenly split between people who understand its cutting nature and those who don’t,” muses Willis. “Part of the problem with Trump is that [they’re either Trump supporters or] there’s so much resentment that people have a hard time taking his name – in any way.”
Alternative suggestions have included Resistance Forest or Science Forest but somehow, knowing that scattered across the world, there are trees spreading love and light in the name of someone for whom none exists, seems especially poetic. Trump Forest it is.