Restoring natural systems is hot. We see this in the numbers of initiatives that want to join Ecosystem Restoration Camps. We see this too in the number of initiatives that are emerging around the world. I was listening to a presentation from the World Economic Forum about the 1 Trillion Tree campaign. The presenter made sure to let us know that in reality this is about ecosystem restoration restoration. However, he continued to state, ecosystem restoration is too complex so for their audience, multinationals and corporates, they simplified the complex process they want to support to ‘trees’.
Tree campaigns are popping up everywhere. It’s great. The more trees that get planted the better. Yet, I would warn agains using the tree as the simplification for ecosystem restoration. What we are seeing already is that tree-planting is becoming a substitute. It’s similar to what happened within the broader need for environmental care and Climate Change. With the prevalence of climate change in the public discourse, all elements of environmental protection, which includes combatting pollution, halting depletion of natural resources, stopping unsustainable land use, halting biodiversity loss, and many more, were replaced with the one: CO2 reduction.
Let’s prevent an oversimplification of ecosystem restoration to tree planting, even when from a marketing perspective it is quite a simple vehicle to use. Let’s put a bit more emphasis on the complexity of ecosystem restoration, so that people around the world understand that the natural system we are dependent on is more than trees. So let’s talk about soil-permeability, soil micro-life, water-systems, plant-systems, and even animal systems – their interaction and their interdependency. Let’s show that ecosystem restoration needs many more steps before the first trees can be planted (check out the work on the Altiplano to understand this). Only then can we ‘train the public’ into become proper citizens of a natural world.