Today I was inspired by #teamtrees, a group of youtubers using their platform to raise $20,000,000 and plant 20,000,000 trees. They raised over $10M in just five days. A huge, inspiring accomplishment, and surely something that will put a dent in climate change, right?
Well, no. I did the math, and the impact is harrowing.
On average, a tree will sequester about 88 lbs of carbon per year; seems like a lot, but the average American emits over 44,000 lbs of carbon annually. It would take 500 trees to make up for one person’s emissions, and the inspiring 20M planted by MrBeast and crew will make up for only about 40,000 people, or 0.01% of the US population.
A typical vehicle emits over 10,000 lbs of carbon annually. So 20 million trees would make up for about 170,000 cars. The only problem is that we produce about 75 million cars each year, globally.
For every tree planted by #teamtrees this year, we will have produced nearly four cars. You can watch the annual car count tick up here.
No, planting 20 million trees isn’t nearly enough; it was never going to be. It was never intended to be. The fact that a handful of social media influencers have to band together to inspire a conversation about climate change in a country as innovation-forward as the US is shameful, but I’m thankful they’re doing it nonetheless.
What’s really inspiring is just how many people this campaign has brought together: MrBeast’s original Youtube upload has over 33M views. More than 300,000 people have individually donated. Elon Musk donated $1M, which is sure to get millions more eyes on the initiative. Even the Nasdaq tweeted in support, and I’m pretty sure no one knew they tweeted.
We need massive, radical change. But what movements like this show me is that we want massive, radical change, too.
The people who care most about these issues, people like my younger sister, people that are Youtube’s main demographic, aren’t even voting age yet. Team Trees is another voice in a growing political narrative — one that policymakers better begin recognizing, for their own sake:
“If you don’t do something about this, we’ll do it ourselves.”