To fight global warming, he’s planting trees. Lots of them.

To fight global warming, he’s planting trees. Lots of them.
Professor Camilo Mora walks on the land where his initiative planted 10,000 trees recently. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Many of us grapple with what we can do to address climate change ― something that’s been described as an existential threat to our very survival.

Is cutting back on meat, driving an electric car and flying less enough? What else can you do?

That question is behind an ambitious effort in Hawaii that seeks to plant millions of trees in the coming decades, offsetting carbon emissions for the state and then beyond its shores.

This story is presented as part of HNN’s new three-part documentary series, “A Climate for Change.” To watch the first episode and see more coverage on the impacts of climate change in Hawaii, click here.

The initiative is the brainchild of Camilo Mora, an associate professor of geography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who has studied climate change extensively.

He was the lead author of an expansive 2019 report that showed the multi-faceted and complicated hazards climate change poses mean that humans face a “much larger threat” than previously thought.

Volunteers help plant trees as part of an initiative aimed at battling climate change.
Volunteers help plant trees as part of an initiative aimed at battling climate change. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

Mora’s Carbon Neutrality Challenge had its first proof-of-concept event in 2018, when volunteers planted 1,000 trees in two hours.

Last year, they dialed things up: Hundreds of volunteers planted 11,000 trees.

This year, the project wants to scale up to 100,000 trees. And then in 2021, they want to start planting 1 million trees annually.

“If this issue of fixing climate change cannot be fixed in Hawaii, it cannot be done anywhere,” Mora said. “We have everything that you need to fix it. So that is a personal challenge for me and all of the scientists and politicians in Hawaii. If we cannot do it here, let’s pack up and go home.”

Volunteers planted thousands of trees in a field as part of an initiative aimed at battling climate change.
Volunteers planted thousands of trees in a field as part of an initiative aimed at battling climate change. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

Climate change is largely a problem of too much carbon dioxide ― a greenhouse gas ― in the atmosphere. But planting enough trees, which absorb carbon dioxide, would offset Hawaii’s carbon footprint as the state also seeks in the long-run to reduce its overall carbon emissions.

Mora admits it sounds easier than it is.

When you start planting tens of thousands of trees, you’ll inevitably have thousands of trees that don’t make it. Plus, trees take land ― which would need to be loaned to the effort.

And planting trees requires resources, from fertilizer to water.

“We’re scratching the surface of how difficult this is going to be,” Mora said, in a recent interview.

But he still imagines a future in Hawaii where he’ll be able to look out with his grandchildren at a huge rainforest and think, “We did it.”

To donate to Mora’s crowdfunding effort, click here.

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