Does Planting A Tree Make Any Difference?

Well-meaning people have recently begun to do their bit to fight back against the loss of natural resources by either planting, or paying for someone else to plant, trees of their own. Aside from being one sure-fire way to earn the derision and criticism of enviro-skeptics, is this ever going to have much effect? After all, what difference does one tree make?

It should be fairly clear that this is not really the right question to ask. Of course, one person planting one tree is not going to offset the carbon pollution caused by even one small part of the airline industry, or by one car in the course of its lifetime. However, the real battle is between the amount of benefit to the environment from planting one tree and the benefit that results from planting none at all.

If we took the attitude that one person cannot make a difference, and applied it to everyone, then nothing would ever get done – but if we each took the attitude that a small step is better than standing still, then we would have mass action, something that really does make a difference. Rather than assuming that your contribution will be swallowed up by the damage caused by others, it is much better to take the attitude that all of us together can make a difference – and even if you are a lone voice, it is better to make some noise than let others simply do what they want unchallenged.