While there has been a general upward trend in the strength of democratic institutions worldwide throughout the last century and the increased peace and justice such institutions bring, the Institute for Economics and Peace notes that the world today is ‘considerably less peaceful now than a decade ago’.
In light of increased terrorist activity, intensification of conflicts across the Middle East, rising tensions across Europe and the US and increasing number of refugees seeking safety on foreign soils, Sustainable Development Goal 16 aims to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’.
In order to advance our sustainable future, there is little doubt that we need our institutions to stand up for humanity’s flourishing both now and in the decades to come.
Transparent and fair institutions mean more transparency and fairness in society as a whole, leading to accessible justice for poor and marginalized groups who all too often act as the feeding ground for the economically strong, perpetuating poverty and marginalization.
In the environmental realm, it means striving to redress the negative side effects of industrial and modern production which have led to the uncomfortable juxtaposition of Western prosperity alongside the by-product of continued suffering and exploitation of ‘less-developed’ countries or communities across the rest of the world. This is where trees come in.
How Trees Can Help
It may seem like a stretch to say that trees can help strengthen institutions while promoting peace and justice, but the truth is that trees-and specifically deforestation-are one of the most relevant justice issues of our time.
Since the year 2000, over 1,700 environmental defenders have been killed trying to protect parts of the Amazon rainforest from deforestation. Of these 1,700, a disproportionate 30% to 40% were indigenous people who are often left to defend their local forests against ruthless ranchers and illegal loggers who use guns to brutally murder those who stand in their way.
In the face of the aggressive ignorance demonstrated by strongman politicians such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who has actively encouraged deforestation in the Brazilian amazon; or America’s Donald Trump who left the 2015 Paris Climate Accord upon coming into office, it is time that we fought back.
Such wanton greed threatens to wreak havoc and destruction on the forests vital for our planet’s survival, while simultaneously endangering the lives of thousands of people who call the forests their home and have the knowledge to guide its much-needed restoration.
Planting trees in areas affected by rampant deforestation is not only an environmental good.
It is a plea for justice.
An act of solidarity.
Planting trees can solidify communities’ defences against extreme weather events, providing food, shelter and medicine, while also offering employment opportunities enabling greater financial resilience in the face of increasing economic uncertainty.
Reforestation is not only an environmental good, but a statement for peace and justice for all those directly and disproportionately affected by the processes driving climate change and its disastrous outcomes.