Terence Blacker: Planting trees is a facile option

A sapling stuck into a pot is presented as a private little planet saver

Share
Related Topics

It has taken some time but at last Britain has come up with a symbol to represent our commitment to the environment and concern for the planet. Our version of the polar bear on a melting ice cap is to be... the tree.

It is now National Tree Week and it would be churlish to deny that a tree, with its roots in the past, its varied and changing beauty, its ecological benefits to wildlife and to the atmosphere, is as good a symbol as one could hope to find.

The BBC has entered into the new spirit of tree-worship by supporting a speed-planting campaign. Over the next few days, 300,000 saplings are to be given away, at a cost of £96,000 to the corporation. Then, between 11 and 12 o'clock on 5 December, an hour to be known as "Tree o'clock", we will be encouraged to plant trees as fast as possible with a view to breaking the current speed-planting campaign in the Guinness Book of Records.

It is a marketing campaign and perhaps should not be judged too harshly. The cost to the BBC is comparatively small – less than an eighth of what its director-general pockets every year. The exercise will, according to a spokesperson, be "furthering people's understanding of wildlife". It will also "inspire and empower individuals to take action that benefits communities".

That, surely, is pushing it a bit. The only real benefit will be to the viewers' sense that they are "doing their bit". The majority of saplings will be thrown away or forgotten. Some will be put in pots and allowed to die. The encouragement to chuck as many young trees into the ground as possible within an hour is encouraging careless planting. The small matter of protecting and keeping trees alive has been ignored.

As with many marketing campaigns, there is more to it than meets the eye. Whenever a developer – usually a supermarket – is involved in a controversial project, it will ensure that it plants a few trees to establish its (fake) green credentials. The equivalent is happening with the BBC's planting race. People are being encouraged to see environmental challenges in terms of easy gestures which will make them feel better. A silver birch sapling stuck into a pot is being presented as a private little planet-saver.

Campaigns like this are the gesture politics of environmentalism. Wasteful and showy, they suggest that if we as individuals play our part, then the problems we face will recede. That lets government off the hook. The emphasis is on small, sentimental, domestic activism rather than serious policy-making.

The Woodland Trust has rightly pointed out that a huge increase in the woodland across Britain, one of the least wooded countries in Europe, would benefit wildlife and the landscape, as well reducing the risk of flooding and locking up carbon. The equivalent of 30,000 pitches of new woodland needs to be planted every year, according to a recent report by the Forestry Commission.

Achieving environmental targets will not involve celebrities or the Guinness Book of Records. It might even be politically difficult or unpopular. The plant-a-tree-and-save-the-planet option is altogether easier.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer