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Regarding the efficiency of cheap greenwashing

Week after week, we are being bombarded with the ecological initiatives of governments and companies that pretend to be virtuous by planting trees. Everyone does it and communicates almost ad nauseam across all media. This can be airlines looking to offset their GHG emissions, travel agencies who want to blame their customers who may have a slight concern when they go to the other side of the world, or governments who perhaps realize the impact of the desertification in their country, but which above all pretend to be greener to please a growing fringe of their electorate. All rush towards the tree nurseries and the forests. We can i.a. mention Air France for example last January, or Turkey and Ethiopia last year who fought to beat tree planting records.

Of course, it is better to plant trees than to let them burn, or to give a blank check to the big companies that chop them off on thousands of hectares. This however calls for 2 comments.

First of all, it's always cheaper to hide behind this smokescreen, than to fundamentally review your operating procedures to really reduce your ecological footprint. The capitalist model requires growth, the shareholders demand an increase in turnover, operating margin, and therefore the dividend. No reason therefore (in relation to our examples above) of reducing the number of destinations, and of limiting the rights of tourists to go and massively vandalize new holiday resorts. In the case of governments, no reason to restrict the privileges of companies, providers of jobs, sometimes of taxes and, one must often admit, of bribes distributed to local potentates. So, people plant, and ecological policy is in this case only a simple line of a communication and marketing budget.

In our view, we must deplore the short-termism of this policy. First, it is recognized that a tree will take years to grow before finally absorbing the tons of CO2 emitted by the polluting activity for which it serves as an alibi. It’s a kind of fraud.

But it needs to survive in the first place. Because once planted, a tree needs water, care, protection against ruminants, etc. Look at the fiasco of the recent reforestation policy carried out in the Turkish democracy last November on more than 2000 sites. Thousands of volunteers have planted more than 11 million trees, but 90% have not survived (see here: We found no assessment of the Ethiopian campaign to plant 350 million trees in one day in July 2019, communication on this "world record" ended completely 2 weeks after. Nice effort, but it must be remembered that a third of the country was covered with forests at the beginning of the 20th century, that only 3% remained 100 years later, while the population continues to increase.

As part of our projects, we have only "100,000" trees planted, but each time, we have made sure to build an ecosystem favorable to their survival: agroforestry, silvopastoralism, addition of market gardening perimeters with water supply. We don’t communicate, we act.


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