A Different Friday For the Future

Alternative history intrigues me. Shows like The Man in the High Castle, where the Allies lost WWII and the US was split between Japanese and German domination play in my imagination. Many with Climate Change Angst, including myself, wonder what alternative history we might be living in now if social and fiscal conservatives had retained their beliefs in stewardship, and rejected destructive behavior towards the planet. Or, what today would look like if 30 year ago, the major energy companies had taken the lead in clean energy technology, rather than seeking near-term increase in profits from air conditioners and refrigeration.

A full grown Cockspur Coral Tree in a California park

In my Alternative History, I have a different vision:

What if, instead of talking to politicians and trying to change policy, Greta Thunberg had advocated personal action? She started protesting outside the Swedish Parliament on August 20, 2018, five years ago, with a sign that read, Skolstrejk för klimatet (Swedish for School Strike for Climate). Seven months later, on March 15th, 2019 more than 2,200 strikes occurred in 125 countries and more than a million people participated. Fridays for the Future became a global phenomenon.

Today, August 19, 2022, more than 5 million people follow Greta on Twitter alone.

There have been 178 Fridays since March 15th, 2019. If Greta had said, to her followers, “Join me! Let’s plant a tree every Friday.” And 1 million out of her 5 million followers planted a tree every Friday, humanity would have sequestered about 200 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, as a result of her influence.

Now, don’t get upset. I’m a fan of Greta. But 178 million trees planted in the last 5 years would be having a big effect on today’s weather.

Through photosynthesis, they would have pulled CO2 from the air, increased rainfall through the small water cycle and created shade to cool cities. But the trees themselves would have sequestered a much smaller amount of carbon. Using an example from the Sierra Club newsletter, the Silver Maple Tree calculation from the US Energy Information Administration, it only sequesters 400 lbs of carbon over 25 years.

The real impact is the soil carbon. The ground under a tree sequesters hundreds of pounds of carbon, permanently, each year. The key is living soil: trees can’t live in dead dirt, they need fungi to survive. Yes, fungi: molds, yeasts, mushrooms and many other types.

Trees and fungi have a symbiotic relationship, where trees feed these key soil microbes sugars and other carbon-based extrudates and get essential nutrients in return. As the fungi grow, they build tubes of carbon which bring water and nutrients to the tree. The hyphae of the fungi, fed by the trees, become coated with a glue from other microbes, both types of microbes add to carbon sequestration in the soil.

In my alternative history, everyone who participated in the March 2019 climate change rally’s began planting, nurturing and protecting one additional tree each Friday. 200 tons of carbon dioxide have already been stored in the soil and trees since Greta began talking to politicians about policy.

As I finish this, it is 3:10 on Friday, August 19, 208 weeks since the very first signs were paraded in front of the Swedish Parliament. I’m going out to plant a tree. I have a seedling from a tree with beautiful red flowers that grows into a great provider of shade, the Cockspur Coral Tree (Erythina crista-galli), the national tree of Argentina. It is a common tree in community parks throughout California.

Cockspur Coral Seedling from Dominican College in San Rafael, now in my yard

Please follow me and clap for this story, as well as Yes, Trees are a Global Warming Solution for 3 Reasons and Trees Provide 25 Eco-Services.

Why does SymSoil care? We focus on solutions to environmental issues, with a focus on soil biology. Trees and plants feed, and are fed by, the soil microbiome. Healthy soil influences water, carbon sequestration and human health. SymSoil holds a patent on the first scalable approach to manufacturing Soil Food Web products as an alternative to agrochemicals.

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Elizabeth Pearce @ SymSoil

We recreate the complete soil microbe biome to improve farmer profits. #RegenAg #ClimateAction #100KTrees https://www.100ktrees4humanity.com