The Canadian government is going to save us all with trees. And by “all” we include the government itself, which needs to meet some very ambitious climate targets without annoying citizens by making gas expensive, tearing the country apart by crushing the hydrocarbon energy industry based in a region where the ruling party is already about as popular as leprosy (and yes, climate change apparently makes leprosy worse in several ways, as you guessed). But here’s the thing. During the 2019 election the incumbent Liberals promised to plant 2 billion trees by 2030, and claim carbon offsets on an enormous scale. And then they planted 8.5 million and took a bow for the cameras because they really really intend to do better and doubtless will. As soon as someone gives them a plan.
We do not exaggerate. It’s bad enough without making anything up. The National Post reports that via an Access to Information request it discovered that the government has only planted 8.5 million trees so far. But as with budget deficits, they have a bumper crop of superficially plausible excuses and dazzling follow-up promises.
In the former category “Natural Resources blames the slow start on a lack of seedlings, which can take between two to three years to grow.” And in the latter “It says it plans to plant 60 million seedlings next year, rising to 320 million trees a year in 2027, 2028 and 2029, creating thousands of extra jobs.” See? Save the planet and create clean modern jobs shlepping about sticking plants into the soil on steep distant hillsides. All utilities maximized simultaneously, as usual. By people who apparently do not know what they do not know which, pace Sir Humphrey Appleby, could be almost anything.
In case you do not live in Canada we should mention that it is the 2nd-largest country in the world and its population is heavily concentrated in a thin southern strip, leaving a vast and spectacular region covered in… trees. Trees trees trees. All trees all the time. They are one of our most important natural resources. And the reason we should mention it is that surely someone should have told Natural Resources, or it should have told someone, that seedlings do not grow as fast as, say, pea plants.
It gets worse. The Post also discovered, via a press release, that the government just asked if anyone knows how to plant a lot of trees. “Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has today launched a call for proposals — including from Indigenous communities and municipalities — to plant millions of extra trees a year. The available funding includes a ‘mass planting stream’ for proposals that would put at least 500,000 trees in the ground and an ‘urban and suburban planting stream’ for those that would plant at least 10,000 trees.” It is a sobering reminder that just because politicians say they are going to do something does not mean they understand what would be required, let alone that they really intend to do it.
For instance, suppose you wanted to save the planet from that terrible CO2. And suppose you were the Canadian government. And suppose you said hey, I know, we’ll plant a bunch of trees. What’s that number with all the zeroes they keep mentioning when it comes to our budget deficits? Billions? Yeah. Let’s plant two billion trees. That’s the ticket. Well, what a normal person would then do is say OK, how many trees do we already have? Will two billion make a big difference? Because if we were, say, Belgium or Swaziland, not famous for their vast expanses of rushing rivers and twisted pines captured by the Group of Seven, it would be a big addition. But in Canada I feel that there are already a great many trees and this could just be greenwashing.
Said normal person would then get a computer that has the internet on it, and Google “How many trees are there in Canada” and get 318 billion. Not hits. Trees. Meaning that extra two billion would be about 0.66% more trees, adding less than one percent to our carbon absorption. When they discovered that they had actually planted only 8.5 million because trees take a while to germinate and grow, and didn’t have a plan, they would be embarrassed.
P.S. Swaziland, the Internet informs us, is now Eswatini, and has about 590,600 hectares of forest, close to Belgium’s 667,000, as against Canada’s 347 million. Though even Eswatini manages to have over 600 species.
P.P.S. Nobody actually knows how many trees there are in the world, though the site we are quoting estimates that “There might be 3.04 Trillion trees in the world” though half are in just five countries and two-thirds in just 10. But as we noted back in 2020, that 3.04 trillion figure came from a study that found 7.5 times more than the settled science had previously indicated. So nobody actually knows. Not even close.
P.P.S. The tree site also says “Russia has 642 Billion trees which earn it the title of the country with the most trees! Illegal forests occupy vast stretches of the country- yes, the state can ban trees! 10% of Russia, which is almost twice the size of Spain’s whole country, lies in formerly or presently designed regions as ‘agricultural land.’ For some bizarre reason, the Russian legislation demands that landowners keep these areas free of forests, and they are even liable to pay fines in case of the breach! Yet, most of these areas lie forgotten, covered in scores of trees despite the legal opposition.” So Russian criminals have planted far more trees than the Canadian government will ever manage.