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Environment

This Organization Wants to Plant 1 Billion Trees — Starting Today

Elizabeth Soltis used to live in Africa doing climate change work on behalf of the United Nations. She would visit different African countries and see firsthand the effects of climate change derived from choices made in the western world.

When she was working in Ghana, she and her UN colleagues visited a small village in a dense forest where they met with the village elders. The people there had told her the temperatures had become so high they were no longer able to grow the crops they had once relied on. Soltis was told that yams were literally burning up in the ground because the ground was so hot.

Sitting in a circle under a canopy of trees, she expressed her deepest apologies to the chief for how western civilization had impacted their livelihood.

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“It was one of those poignant moments in my life where he looked me right in the eye to take in my apology, and I looked him right in the eye, and it was a true heart-to-heart moment,” Soltis told Global Citizen. “And he said to me, ‘I accept your apology on one condition: that you go back home and you change your ways and you spread this message to your brothers and sisters.’”

Nowadays, Soltis serves as the partnerships director for TreeSisters and is able to do just that.

TreeSisters is a charity founded by Clare Dakin that is dedicated to reforestation, behaviour change and feminine leadership. As a global network of women, they currently plant one million trees a year through NGO partnerships in Madagascar, Brazil, Kenya and India.

TreeSisters_1 Billion Trees

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But as the effects of climate change continue to threaten our planet, TreeSisters has decided that more needs to be done to restore the environment.

That's why today TreeSisters is launching their Journey to a Billion Trees, a multi-year campaign that aims to plant one billion trees a year.

As an organization, TreeSisters focuses on tropical reforestation because that’s where trees grow the fastest, where biodiversity is most threatened and home some of the most vulnerable people live in the world, according to Soltis.

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They fund this planting thanks to monthly donations from 2,500 members from over 40 different countries. In order to reach their goal of planting one billion trees, they will need to increase their base to 25,000 people.

Their current funding allows them to plant with partners that put community ownership at the heart of the tree planting. These young trees are cared for and protected by women in the local community. The women also derive economic benefit from the trees, according to Soltis.

“We’ve had the patriarchal culture in our world for thousands of years, and it’s really time to overturn that," Soltis said. “It’s about women rising… And normalizing planetary caretaking is a fantastically powerful way for women to rise in their goddess energy.”

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Still, Soltis emphasizes that while TreeSisters is a women-led global reforestation movement, everyone is welcome to contribute.

“We live in a time where we need all hands on deck, which means we welcome — and I feel grateful for — our TreeBrothers who are with us, and stand with us,” she said.

TreeSisters doesn’t just focus on reforestation by way of planting more trees. They aren’t just looking for more funding, but really looking to guide people to change.

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“The big factor here is voluntary belief and behaviour change,” she said. “If we take a look at the world and how it is that we’re relating to the trees, to the environment, to the air, to the oceans … there’s something going on in our psyche, in our collective belief system, that makes it OK to degrade the environment the way we are.”

The Billion Trees Campaign starts today with seven weeks of online events, including a series of interviews with environmental activists, weekly global meditations, Facebook live events and teachings.

“We want to guide people through an expansion of consciousness to catalyze this global movement,” Soltis said.

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In short, it’s one thing to give an organization money, it’s another thing to actually make a genuine change to do more for the environment.  

Check out billiontrees.me to become a part of this growing movement.

Global Citizen campaigns on issues of climate change and gender equality. You can take action here.