News / Toronto

Trump Forest is trying to counter ignorant climate policy, one tree at a time

Started in New Zealand in April, the movement has now gone global, attracting notable Canadian supporters like Margaret Atwood.

From left: Adrien Taylor, Dan Price and Jeff Willis are the New Zealand-based creators of Trump Forest, a project to get people donating and planting trees to offset Trump’s climate record.

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From left: Adrien Taylor, Dan Price and Jeff Willis are the New Zealand-based creators of Trump Forest, a project to get people donating and planting trees to offset Trump’s climate record.

He already has towers, hotels and golf courses. Now Donald Trump can count a global crowdsourced forest on the list of things named after him.

Trump Forest was started by three friends in New Zealand in April to offset the carbon emissions caused by Trump's dismantling of the Clean Power Plan and re-stoking of the U.S. coal industry.

They've partnered with a non-profit that plants trees in developing countries and maintain a website where they track trees pledged on a map. People can either donate or plant their own trees and send a scanned receipt.

“We figure we have to plant enough trees to cover the state of Kentucky," said Jeff Willis, one of three co-founders of the volunteer initiative.

That's about 10 billion trees, said Willis, speaking to Metro from Christchurch, New Zealand, where he's a PhD student. But more than 800,000 trees have been pledged all over the world so far.

“It feels quite frustrating with Trump. Every single day there’s something new, and being able to have a really concrete positive impact ... has been really cool," he said.

Just this week, Syrian officials announced they would sign on to the Paris agreement on climate change, making the U.S. the only country on Earth that doesn't support the landmark accord to reduce global emissions.

“Trump is essentially leading the U.S. backwards and dragging the rest of the world with it," Willis said.

The 28-year-old manages social media for the project (@realtrumpforest) and said New Zealander Lucy Lawless — of Xena, Warrior Princess fame — was one of the early champions. Closer to home, Margaret Atwood is also a fan, tweeting her support.

Newmarket native Kayleigh Wilson said she "stumbled across" the concept on social media a few months ago and decided to give about $12 a month to Eden Reforestation Projects in Madagascar through Trump Forest.

"I wasn't super happy when Trump became president," she said.

Harbouring a long-time passion for environmental causes, Wilson found Trump's position "very disheartening." (In 2012, Trump tweeted that climate change was a concept invented by the Chinese to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.)

"You start to feel a little powerless," she said. "For me, it was a way to get that power back."

Willis said he's been surprised at how quickly the idea has taken off and the mixture of people it's brought together from around the world, both conservationists and anti-Trumpers.

But, he adds, the name is a little much for some.

"We do get people that sort of viscerally hate Trump so much that they can’t even handle the name Trump Forest," he said. “But part of the project is drawing attention to how ignorant he is."

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