Guest column: A trillion reasons to save our future

  • Madeleine Lombard places a sign on the Champion Pin Oak on Columbus Street in Northampton as part of Arbor Day. FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Friday, May 24, 2019

The students at Fort River Elementary School are worried about our world and what is happening to it. We are especially concerned about climate change and the future of our planet.

Climate change is evicting animals out of their homes and making the air unbearable and unbreathable for all life. It is also affecting the weather. Now winters and summers are increasingly warmer. There was almost no snow last winter here in Amherst!

In addition, as our world gets warmer and ice melts, sea levels rise. According to the website sealevelrise.org, over 27,500 properties are at risk from tidal flooding in Massachusetts. The speed of sea level rise has accelerated over the last 10 years, and in Massachusetts, the sea rises 1 inch every eight years. During winters in Boston, tides can grow up to 2 feet higher than normal high tides. The rise in sea levels has made hurricanes more damaging, allowing the hurricane water to travel further inland. Massachusetts spent over $1 billion on solutions.

During a civic literacy unit at Fort River, our sixth-grade class, with the help of organizers-in-residence Stephanie Jo Kent and Lindsey Peterson, has discovered opportunities to help combat climate change: The United Nations’ Trillion Tree Campaign and Massachusetts forest protection and greenhouse gas legislation (Bill H.897 and Bill H.853).

The Trillion Tree Campaign is run by the U.N. in collaboration with three of the world’s largest conservation organizations: the World Wide Fund for Nature, BirdLife International and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The U.N. has a goal to plant, preserve and protect 1.2 trillion trees. Right now the world has planted a little less than 14 billion trees for this campaign. It may sound like a lot, but we need more help to achieve this massive goal.

The Trillion Tree Campaign is working together to help end deforestation, protect existing forests and promote the planting of trees. Tree cover is important because it is an essential part of what makes Earth a healthy home for people and animals. Trees are equal to life. And most importantly, if successful, the 1.2 trillion trees would help to undo the last decade of climate change!

The Massachusetts Deforestation Act is about stopping deforestation in state forests. If Bill H.897 passed, it would preserve 13 percent of the state’s land, including large areas of continuous, dense forest vital for clean air and water, as well as safe animal habitats. Bill H.853 would remove subsidies for wood burning heating systems and encourage clean, renewable heating technologies.

Students in Deborah Sawicki’s sixth-grade class would like to encourage Sen. Anne M. Gobi and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli to help the Trillion Tree Campaign and the Massachusetts Deforestation Act.

The effects of climate change are devastating here in Massachusetts, across America and beyond, and they will continue to be if we don’t act to change our ways soon. We need help from all our state legislators to combat global warming and climate change. Please help us by writing or calling state legislators to get the Deforestation Act passed to help save trees.

If you walk into Ms. Sawicki’s classroom at Fort River, you will see a class of hardworking students, working on ideas together for the Trillion Tree Campaign and the Massachusetts Deforestation Act. They want the world to be a better place when they grow up. Please support the Trillion Tree Campaign by planting trees in your backyard, near your home, in your community or anywhere on our planet. Planting a tree is something everyone and anyone can do without an act of Congress, and if people can commit to planting a tree a year for the rest of their life, the effects could be world-altering.

Everyone can make a difference. As Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Help us on our long and difficult journey to build a better future and support the Trillion Tree Campaign. Plant a tree today.

Caroline Garman, Eamon Giles, and Elizabeth Sawicki are sixth-grade students at Fort River Elementary School in Amherst.