#17 | Steve Fitch  - Eden Reforestation Projects : Champion of Reforestation and Ecological Restoration

Did you know reforesting about 2.2 billion acres could store 205 gigatonnes of carbon? That’s the equivalent of two-thirds of all the carbon humans have already released into the atmosphere!

In this episode of Sustainability Matters Today, I interview Dr. Stephen Fitch, founder and CEO of Eden Reforestation Projects and #Champion of Reforestation and Ecological Restoration.

 

Launched in Ethiopia in 2004, Eden Reforestation Projects restores healthy forests in Madagascar, Haiti, Nepal, Indonesia, Mozambique, and Kenya while reducing extreme poverty by employing thousands of local villagers to plant trees in deforested areas. Eden has been recognized as one of the most cost-effective reforestation projects in the world.

 

Please make sure to subscribe to the Sustainability Matters Today podcast to learn more about other champions of sustainability like Steve.

 

I hope you enjoy the episode!

 

Resources:

Eden Reforestation Projects Website: https://edenprojects.org

Ecosia website: https://www.ecosia.org

Aquifer: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquifer

Seed Balls: https://seed-balls.com/what-are-seed-balls

Carbon Sequestration: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_sequestration

Daniel: Thank you for joining me today, Steve. Great to have you on the show.

 

Steve:   Well, thanks Daniel. I hope this will be interesting, not bore anybody to tears, so let's go for it.

 

Daniel: Yeah, I'm sure it'll be awesome. I'm sure it'll be fascinating. Well, let's start with who you are. I think that's a great way to begin. I'd love to also hear about Eden Reforestation Projects and the work that that you do with Eden.

 

Steve:   Yeah, I am just an average guy. I guess, that luckily stumbled into some wonderful experiences that got Eden going. And so I'm the founder, CEO of Eden Reforestation Projects. We are one of those wondrous nonprofit organizations residing California, USA. We work in six nations at this point, and that's Madagascar, Haiti, Nepal, Indonesia, Mozambican. Most recently, Kenya, we're exploring a bunch of other nations in Central and South America. And bottom line is this year we're going to plant over 60 million trees in our history. We're closing in on 300 million and our goal next year is a whopping hundred million or more trees in one year. So, loads of fun.

 

Daniel: It's a big project.

 

Steve:   It’s, kind of, according to the guys at Ecosia we are the most prolific tree planting organization on the planet.

 

Daniel: Yeah, that's, that's amazing. And so how did the Eden Reforestation Projects get started or how did you get started in tree planting?

 

Steve:   Well, I've always been one of those guys that love looking under rocks and playing with critters and you know, just being out and about. I wanted to be a field biologist in college and ended up getting sidetracked on that. But I was doing development, kind of traditional development work in Ethiopia and you know, hospitals and schools and clinics and we had an HIV daycare center and all kinds of stuff like that. And I also got to be friends with president Haile Mariam of the Southern People’s Region of Ethiopia. And he basically nailed me that's what politicians do, I suppose. He said, you really do good work and you get stuff done and in kind of record time, but you, you're actually ignoring our nation's greatest need. And with that wondrous guilt trip I said, ok well, --.

 

Daniel: Kind of a back handed compliment.

 

Steve:   And he says, well, all the studies show if Ethiopia doesn't reforest in the next, I think it was like 25, 30 years that were going to be destroyed as a nation. Bottom line is if you can't, you know, they're an agricultural nation, like 75%, 80% of their population, small plot farmers. So, if that's wiped out, the environment's wiped out, then the farming's wiped out, the economy's wiped out, the nation's wiped out. So I made the mistake of saying, well, what can I do to help? And he says well, there's this failed project, forest restoration project on the other side of Lake Awasa that gone for three years. And after all that time and money and expertise, they don't have a single surviving tree. And I'm wondering if you'd be willing to take over the project? Gulp. So I said, you know, let me go see it.

 

Steve:   And I found myself on a real another really bad road bouncing across potholes all the way and got to the Udo with Tet escarpment and just saw this devastation. And long story short is spent quite a bit of time with the people and the elders understanding why they thought it failed. And, and then I went back to the US and I was wrapping up a doctoral program about to enter the dissertation phase and studied what works and what doesn't. And it really comes down to this, if you don't care for the people who are desperately poor in the region, they're going to continue to turn as a last resort to what will pay them a dollar or two a week. And that is cutting down a tree or two or three, two or three trees to turn into charcoal. And imagine millions and millions and millions of mainly women cutting down two, three, four trees a week to turn it into charcoal. And that's what's happening across Africa in the world. So, we came up with the employee to plant methodology, changed the economic equation. So, we hire desperately poor people to grow or produce plant and then protect the trees to maturity. So that's our deal.

 

Daniel: Well that's a great introduction. And what a way to get started to have the president of the country tell you that you're the perfect person for this incredibly difficult job that has already failed once.

 

Steve:   Last time. I'm ever going to speak to a politician now, huh?

 

Daniel: Yeah. Look where it's got you. And so why is planting trees so important? Why is that your whole thing?

 

Steve:   Well, it really comes down to what I mentioned a moment earlier. If the environment is destroyed, it really doesn't matter how sophisticated your culture is, whether it's impoverished Ethiopia or, or the US or Canada, UK. If you wreck your environment, you wreck the economy. Of course, the first to suffer will be the poor, they're most dependent upon the land or the sea. Because they're going directly to the land in the sea to produce their food for the day or for the week or their income. And you know, you cut down trees specifically you, you have your water tables drops. So, your springs dry up like our new project site in Kenya, at the Kajabi forest. 15 years ago there was nine permanent rivers flowing out of the top of the escarpment. Now there's one and that's commonplace.

 

Daniel: And that's because there are no more trees there.

 

Steve:   Yeah, because trees are, the sponges of the earth forest are the sponges of the earth. They take the rainfall and gently absorb it into the aquifers, the underground water tables and that's what recharges springs. Then that's about half the water goes either into the ground or into streams and rivers. And then the other half evaporates up and then it turns into cloud formations and passes on to the next geological system. But if those trees aren't there, there's no filter system. So the water hits the ground, it causes horrible erosion and flooding and the list of stuff that people don't tend to think about that the trees do goes on and on. Of course, their animal habitat, their shade,  their food, their fruit, their medicine. There's just no downside trees. And we've, we've cut down half of them on the planet in the last couple of hundred years,

 

Daniel: That's crazy to think about. The employ to plant model. One thing I read on your website, which blew my mind a little bit, is that you can plant a tree for as little as 10 cents. So that means a dollar is 10 trees.

 

Steve:   Yeah.

Daniel: How do, you do that?

 

Steve:   Well, I get asked that often and you know, going back again to my doctoral studies, I had no idea how much other groups were charging. And there's, factors for instance, obviously wages in a developed nation, like the UK or the US or Canada, Japan, et cetera, there are a lot higher. And so rightfully that factor comes into play and Eden specifically starts its mission with seeking to alleviate extreme poverty, which is a primary cause of radical deforestation in tropical nations. So, the wages are lower, they're still transformational in their cultures, but they're lower; so that's a starting point. The other thing is we keep things really simple. I'll probably get in trouble for saying this, but you want to make things really difficult and expensive, hire somebody with a ton of degrees. No nursery into, well crazy expense. And I've said this a number of times, growing trees is not actually all that difficult. If you stop and think about it, trees have actually been grown by themselves for some time now.

 

Daniel: Yeah. They're pretty good at it there.

 

Steve:   Yeah. They aren't really good at it. And so don't turn it into rocket science or what's the latest rocket surgery. You know, get dirt, get seeds, get water, get sun and put them all together and good stuff begins to happen,

 

Daniel: Yeah, there you go. I am I right in thinking I saw on your website that you're also now collecting used water bottles and using that to plastic bottles,

 

Steve:   Anything and everything we can think of to make it more affordable. So, you know, you've got hotels and restaurants and they're just thrown all this, these plastic water bottles that it just struck me. Heck, why are we paying 2 cents or one or 2 cents per every polyprop that you know, is just an environmental mess in itself. Let'stake the water bottles and cut the bottom off, cut the top off and use them.  And they're reasonable, reusable year after year. But there's also a lot of methodologies that don't require any kind of a nursery plastic. You know, there's all kinds of bare root. There's, what they call seed balls and others systems that are just as effective or more so than a grown up plant  in a pot.

 

Daniel: Right, and is that, is, are all of those systems and methods, do you take advantage of all of them?

 

Steve:   Absolutely. And that's why we apply a weighted average. We need nursery systems for the slower growing species that are harder to germinate, you know, so you leave those trees in the nursery longer. But the other systems with, you know, pioneer species for forest enforced efforts. They germinate quickly, they grow quickly and they have in a really tough system that can handle just taking them direct from a, a seed bed or put them in a seed ball and planting that.

 

Daniel: I got you! You've mentioned in a various place on YouTube, I think that you get another question quite a lot, which is how do you know forest won't be cut down again after they've been replanted? You've done all this hard work. So, what if someone comes around and says, actually, no, we can make paper out of this.

 

Steve:   Yeah, it's a big deal. And it's a legitimate concern. So, here's our multi-tiered approach. Number one, we get agreements with the federal government, the regional government, and most especially with the local community, that this plot of land is going to be reserved in perpetuity until you have a legal agreement. But the single biggest factor is when you change the economics at the local level. What we've seen over and over at our sites is they grow, they plant it and they protect it. It's there for us now. And nobody's going to come in and cut down my forest, our forest again, cause we suffered horribly when it was lost and we now have understood through direct experience that when it's restored, the farming gets better, the water tables rises, we get springs again, the fisheries improvements.

 

Steve:   And then we hire guards, that’s part of the 10-cent equation. And now we're adding a component where we've started a board restricted endowment where we're setting aside half a penny, two a penny for every tree sold for guards in perpetuity. So, after the project is completed after 12, 15 years you still have guards and guards are effective. There's one other aspect, we also about 10% of the trees are agroforestry trees, not permanent forest retirees. So, the people have fruit trees, fodder trees, you know cause even construction wood trees, every culture needs wood products. And so, you've planted into the equation and you end up with a more sustainable scenario for the people there.

 

Daniel: I got you. So, you're hiring locals to actually plant the trees and that's part of what the 10 cents goes toward.

 

Steve:   That's the majority.

 

Daniel: Majority. Okay. And then they grow, they plant and eventually they guard the forest and the trees. Yeah. And so at what point is a project considered done?

 

Steve:   When it's done? I mean, you know, I mean like in Mahajamba..

 

Daniel: Bake the bread until it's ready.

 

Steve:   Yeah, Mahajamba Madagascar is this really large mangrove estuary and when I was first there was just a wasteland. And here we are, I think it's 13 years later and we've planted over 60 million trees in that one estuary. And now for as far as you can see, and you can't see very far standing on the ground cause there's just millions and millions and millions of new trees growing up. So, when it's finished is when it's reforested and we only take on massive projects. But what's amazing, you've heard about all the benefits of, you know, the trees, but also the benefits of the pay to the people is a remarkable part of the equation as well because a lot of them, especially women, start micro enterprises with savings from their salary.

 

Steve:   And so that just spins the economy and their fisheries, of course, in Mahajamba have dramatically improved back to where they used to be historically. They're catching crab and shrimp and fish because those ecosystems are so important to coastal fisheries. And then a lot of the workers just love having a job for the first time in their lives. And so, as we, as we continue to expand, they want to go to new sites and we love that idea because they're already trained, they're already leaders, they're already trusted and proven integritous. So, it's become a leadership multiplication factory for us to, to do this kind of approach as well.

 

Daniel: Yeah, that's really cool I think, I mean, I did quite a bit of research and you mentioned that it's not a dependence model--.

 

Steve:   No.

 

Daniel: And I was wondering if you're hiring employees, what happens when the project is done? I mean, what do they do? But it sounds like they have savings. They start their own little businesses and some of them just carry on working with you.

 

Steve:   Yeah, actually a lot of them start, start businesses and you know, compared to a business here, of course it's small, but in their economy it's transformational. They're sending their kids to school by the thousands now because they can afford to pay for their children to have an education. Their medical is good. They actually have a retirement benefit from you know, like social security that we have here in the US but again, they don't want to stop working with Eden because they're loving it and they're loving the results. And actually, a lot of people moved to Mahajamba, et cetera because they heard there were jobs, they came from somewhere else and now we're starting projects and they're somewhere else, so they're going home.

 

Daniel:   Amazing.

 

Steve:   It's, a lot of unexpected consequences on the positive side that I would've never envisioned.

 

Daniel: Yeah. It's a lot. I mean, even the fact that there are more crabs and shrimp now because you're planting trees and don't really think about that kind of connection.

 

Steve:   Yeah, you know, a mangrove trees are, maybe the audience doesn't know. Those are those freaky creepy trees that grow, you know, along the coast with like spider, like legs for roots that grow into the ocean and in the mud, well that's habitat for massive habitat. They're incredibly dense forest and so all kinds of creatures - crab, shrimp and especially fish fry, the small baby - have something like 70% of all reef species have some aspect of their reproductive cycle in mangrove estuaries. So that habitat is so crucial even to the wellbeing of, of the world's coral reef systems.

 

Daniel: That's incredible.

 

Steve:   It's pretty cool.

 

Daniel: It's amazing how just planting trees does so much for so many different life forms, humans included.

 

Steve:   Yeah, and one factor is a mangrove also sequester three to four times more carbon than any other terrestrial or semi terrestrial forest system. And that's because they sequester so much of the carbon in soil sequestration there. Their roots are freaky they have to, you know, handle in incoming and outgoing tides twice a day, which is quite powerful at times. They have to handle the storm surges, so their roots have to establish quickly, and they actually excrete it's like a coagulant and it captures mud. So, they're kind of their own mud gathering factories. And so all of that muds coming together with filled with massive amounts of sediment and it's all captured anaerobically below the soil. And that's where you get the two to three times more just below the soil plus the tree mass itself.

 

Daniel: So, it almost sounds like mangroves also maintain the coastline.

 

Steve:   They absolutely do. Like the tsunami that hit Indonesia and India and Thailand, et cetera. What was that like? What was it, 14, 15 years ago?

 

Daniel: Yeah, I think so.

 

Steve:   Where the mangroves were cut down along the coastlands the local communities were just obliterated. Where there were mangoes still healthy and in place it was negligible. Imagine a kilometer or two or five or 10 thick of these trees that grow these massive complex root systems, the tsunami hits and it's absorbed. So they absorb, they sequester or they capture soil running off from land, which keeps them from smothering the reef systems. And then conversely, when storms come along or tsunamis come along, they absorb the energy the other way. There's no downside to mangroves unless you're wanting to walk through them, then it's pretty, pretty awful. But I've done that too many times.

 

Daniel: It sounds like a fair trade off though, I think.

 

Steve:   We’ll stay with it.

 

Daniel: And so, where have, I mean you, so you just outlined miles or as you're saying, kilometers and kilometers of millions, millions and millions of mangrove trees. Is Madagascar where you've seen the biggest change in terms of the classic before and after.

 

Steve:   On a large scale? Yes. what we've seen in our projects in Nepal, I've never seen trees grow so fast. So we, you know, started planting trees in what's called community forest along the Nepal Indian border. And four years later you got this incredibly dense, multi-tiered canopy. The trees are depending on your metric system or your British system. Like, you know, 10 meters or more tall, they're 30 feet tall, and it's just amazing how fast they've grown. And the wildlife has been coming back like crazy. They've, had real problems recently with elephants that they hadn't had in decades because the elephants have habitat again and they have all this understory to eat. And some of the younger elephants somehow managed to find out that there was beer in the village and I'm not joking.

 

Steve:   They, so they'd been raiding in the village, you know, for beer at night. I guess boys will be boys and --.

 

Daniel: And unfortunately, an elephant will never forget.

 

Steve:   And the elephant in the room is, literal not figurative in this case. But it's amazing how fast the trees have grown there.

 

Daniel: Yeah. What’s so special about Nepal?

 

Steve:   Well, I think more than anything else is just the basics come together. It's really good soil along, you know, that stretch of Nepal, everybody thinks of, you know, the Himalayas when they think of Nepal, but about a third of Nepal is lowlands. And so you got really good soil, you got good rainfall, you've got a lot of sunlight. And that's kind of what you need to grow trees really fast. And so zoom, they go.

 

Daniel: And at what point does wildlife start coming back and where does it come from? I mean, some of the reforestation projects you've shown, it's literally just bare dirt. And then a couple of years later there's trees and all of a sudden magically wildlife just appears where are they coming from?

 

Steve:   Yeah, really, again, trees provide habitat and it's a chain effect. So, you get a canopy again and that provides a shade and leaf litter and moisture retention. So, the first thing, if you talk about wildlife, the first thing and the most prolific thing to return our insects you have no capacity to attract wildlife without a healthy forest that provides habitat for insects. Cause that brings in the little reptiles, the little birds, the little mammals. And then the food chain starts to build on top of that. So, you know, birds bring in increased diversity species of trees and the wheels of nature began to spin and pretty soon you've got medium size animals and large animals. And how do they get there quote, Jurassic park nature always finds a way. And I've been amazed at how far and some of the readings I've done, how far animals can smell another forest and they will just sneak across at night, they're sneaky level guys. I guess elephants aren't little. But they find a way and it takes time. And again, it has to happen, I guess you say progressively, but it happens.

 

Daniel: That's amazing. So is that, really the key to protecting and endangered species like rhinos and orangutans is just reforestation?

 

Steve:   I think it's certainly a good start. I mean there's, you know, the world has an enormous problem with poachers and that sort of thing. So there, there again, guards and agreements with governments come to play on, and I think there's an increased awareness especially in the emerging generations that, “Hey, we're not, we don't want to wear a something coat or have, you know, a horn hanging from our wall. We'd rather have anything”. And from the nose of a rhino and without habitat they have no chance. But with habitat, you still need guards and awareness to protect and preserve.

 

Daniel: Yeah. You mentioned that at the beginning that over 50% or around 50% of the world's forests have been cut down in the last hundred years with so much of the world deforested. How do you pick your projects?

 

Steve:   Yeah. Well, you know one of the more common questions is, you know, is there enough space to plant trees? And that's like saying, well, is there a sand on the beach? The least of our problems is the availability of radically deforested vacated land. So the real question is, can you develop infrastructure systems where you can hire workers, train workers safely and integrity safely deliver their salaries? Can you in turn get the monitoring and verification reports back? Will the people truly protect? And the answer to that has been consistently yes, there's really important systems that relate to the boring part of forest restoration, which is kind of the business side. Do you have those reliable leaders? Do you have those reliable systems? Can you prove doing what you're say you're doing? And when the systems come together, that's kind of the place where it chooses itself. The forest restoration project site chooses itself. We recently went to Billy's for instance, and that's not the Royal we - that's actually myself and to heroine Ezra went. And bottom line is, is we couldn't find the right leaders and we couldn't guarantee that we could communicate and we couldn't guarantee that we could deliver funds safely and receive reports back. So, the answer was at least not yet. It's not soup yet. We're not going to run down that path until all those pieces.

 

Daniel: That must be a very tough call.

 

Steve:   It is. But it's an important one.

 

Daniel: Yeah. As much as you want to help, you want to make sure that actually you're not wasting any money or resources that could be going towards projects that are actually working.

 

Steve:   Right. The plague of so many projects is corruption, you know? You pass, and I, I hate to say it this way, but governments can be in government officials can be incredibly corrupt because so often there, they're impoverished as well. And their way of surviving because they haven't been paid in the last six months is to skim money off of non-government organizations, et cetera. So, if you pass the money through them, you're in trouble. So you have to have direct banking systems and we live in a cool era where one of the most common ways to pay people in Africa is from phones wings send them their money on their, on their cell phone.

Daniel: Yeah. That's super cool. I remember you - in one of the videos on your website - have a story about corruption how you were, basically, detained for a little while.

 

Steve: Yeah. That was fun.

 

Daniel: What happened there?

 

Steve: Well it's a fun story now. Good memory. Yeah. So we went into Maha Bala and column vote of the first areas in Madagascar and unbeknownst to us, about 80% of the adults living there were indentured servants that whether we affectionately now call the fish Lords came up this escalating debt scheme where the, you know, the fisheries were in decline cause the mangroves were, were gone. And so the people were more desperate and so they, they didn't have good nets and they didn't, may probably didn't even have boats. The fishlord would come in, I'll give you a boat, I'll give you a net. And you go out and you fish. And when you get back at the end of the day, I get 25 kilos of your fish.

 

Steve:   If you don't have, if you have over 25 kilos, you get to keep that. If it's under, you owe me more. And increasingly, you know, it was almost after day, it was more it was, they weren't catching the quota. So they're going further and further into debt. We didn't know that. Then Eden came into those communities and we started paying workers to a plant, mangroves and they're only working for Eaton light, usually 12 to at most 16 hours a week normally. So they can still fish. But they're getting this first time in their lives, consistent cash salary. And the first thing they did, they did is they paid off their, their debt to the fish Lords. And everybody was happy except for the Fishlord, they're really pissed off at us. And we didn't know that.

 

Steve:   So we showed up, Jamie and I showed up in Mohana and next thing you know, these two constables that came from soil Allah you know, like 30 kilometers away, the nearest a hell hole kind of a town. They placed us under hud arrest and these fishlords had called, you know, brought the police over and bribed the police over actually and said, wow, in essence, these blocks, these white guys are coming in here trying to steal all the people's land and resources. And so when our workforce, which is like at that time, about 200 adults heard what was going on. They kind of rushed in and mob the police and mob the fishlords, and they had a trial right there. And I'm pleased to say I was found innocent, but for about an hour and a half, I was under hud arrest with a couple of guys with a AK 47.

 

Daniel: So that's insane. Did you have any idea of what was gonna happen?

 

Steve: My wife would have never let me go if I had known and told her not. I mean we just, we thought we were just doing this great stuff there and everybody was happy. We again, we didn't know. But then that's the time that the truth broke open cause we, you know, what the heck happened here. Other people explained it all and it was just one of the, you know, Oh-my-gosh-kind-of-experiences where we didn't know we were having that kind of an impact and really impoverished people are very vulnerable to schemes and corruption and they just, you just need a job and they need their environment healed. And that's what we're doing with the employee to plant scenario.

 

Daniel: Yeah. I think it's fantastic. I'm moving over to another side of the world and thank you for sharing that story. It's really interesting and glad it's over now, I'm sure. But yeah,

 

Steve:   Yeah. If you want, I can have you arrested too.

 

Daniel: Yeah. thank you. I'll just live vicariously through you on that one. Okay. what do you think of the fires going on in the Amazon at the time of this recording? Just for people listening, it's been about two months or so since there have been some pretty devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest. I'm just curious to know what your thoughts are on that, Steve?

 

Steve:   Well, it's a bit frustrating because the fires have been for, you know, blazing for a long time how the media got ahold of it all of a sudden. I'm not sure. And they're there. They're burning now and they probably will for some time, but it's not just the Amazon, it's all over the world. Some form of destructive land clearing, taking place in fires that the fastest and cheapest way to do it. So how do I feel about it? Makes me sick. I'm sure it makes all of us sick. The pressure that it's got finally gotten noticed is wonderful. It's forced the Brazilian and Peruvian, et cetera, governments to do something. I like that. And then a lot of people are responding. Aiden for instance, and several other of our sister organizations are just being inundated with opportunities to plant more trees. So is awful as it is. I'm glad the tragedy of the fires and the Amazon have some kind of positive consequence and that brings awareness and protest.

 

Daniel: Yeah, I think it's a good point. I mean, the fires would burn anyway. At the very least they could bring attention and some rallying around the, Oh, what's the word I'm looking for? Some rallying around the flag, so to speak. You mentioned at the beginning that you're looking into planting in Central and South America hopefully in 2020, so as is this area, because Amazon stretches through several countries is that a big focus for you?

Steve:   Absolutely. We, we have a meeting with a group of tribal elders from indigenous people group that are right on the border of Peru and Brazil. They're actually on the Brazil side. We've got a meeting with them and about, I think it's 10, 12 days. And we're exploring Honduras. Billy's as mentioned Guatemala and Nicaragua in the Americas. Then we're looking at a number of, of nations in Asia as well. I grew up in the Philippines, so I'd love to get us back into the Philippines.

 

Daniel: Yeah. And especially with all the Palm oil. I'm sure there's a lot of work to be done there.

 

Steve:   Yeah, that's largely Indonesia and we're already working in Indonesia. I hope Palm oil doesn't go to the Philippines. We'll see.

 

Daniel: Yeah. Maybe you can get there first. Everything you've described it, you know, whether it's people, the planet, wildlife, you're having such an incredibly positive effect and it's a knock on effect too. You know, you plant a few trees while actually millions of trees. You're basically giving people control back of their lives. You're giving animals and wildlife a place to live. You're healing the planet through carbon sequestration. And we were talking about what it does for coral reefs and the oceans in general. How does knowing that the work that you're doing every single day affects so many things possibly. How does that make you feel?

 

Steve:   Oh, I'm having the time of my life. A lot of my motivation is, yeah, I'm 62 now. I'm a young 62. I want to go on record that I'm 38 years, have three kids, two grandkids, and a lot of why I'm doing this. I want my grandchildren to have a planet to enjoy. I want the people the impoverished people in the world to have a sustainable life in the future. And it, it's really is not beyond the realm of possibility to, to fix this, this planet again. We can do it. Yeah. It seems an insurmountable to us. You know, a trillion trees, but there's 2 billion people would, would take the job to plant those trees if given the opportunity and the economic consequences of ignoring all of our problems is going to be much higher than the cost of resolving our problems. So why not be proactive and get something done?

 

Daniel: Absolutely. And like you've said, you don't need to plant, people don't need to plant all trillion of those trees. The trees know how to plant themselves,

 

Steve:   But natural regeneration - what we've seen over and over again, once we've established a native species canopy that, you know, the leaf litter is nitrogen fixing and moisture retaining natural regeneration takes over. And when we go back and do surveys and have an inevitably at about year five, six or so, we can't hardly tell, you know which trees we planted because there's so many more that if you will were regenerated, regenerated naturally as a result, a bird's brain in or just dormant seeds in the ground or whatever it, it's amazing.

 

Daniel: Hmm. So a trillion trees is in the realm of possibility.

 

Steve:   Absolutely. Why not?

Daniel: That's really good news. Yeah. Why not? Let's believe it.

Steve: Let's do it.

Daniel: So speaking of which, what can people do to be more sustainable in their daily lives? Or what do you do?

 

Steve:   I think there's, there's two obvious things. One is, you know, if you can make wise choices regarding consuming less, why not? You know, I drive a Prius. It had to crate car and not a commercial for Toyota here, but you had to get a sponsorship. But bottom line is, and I get, I'm getting like 60 miles to the gallon and the guy next to me and his four pick them up truck is, you know, doing like 18 and a four bucks a gallon, I'm the winner and it's a great car. You know, surprising how much the Prius can hold. And, you know, consume less eight different still enjoy life. I'm not asking you to become a monk, you know, just you know, think this through and, and follow a simple guidelines and your own convictions and leave a smaller footprint. But that's reactive still. I think the proactive part is helps plant trees. You know, I, I know it's a commercial for Eden, but doggone it, we've actually become, according to studies, the, as I mentioned earlier, the world's most prolific tree planting organization. And once the downside of pen desperately poor people to plant trees at 10 cents a tree, there's no downside. Yeah, not hurting anybody's sensibilities. So, let's get that job done.

 

Daniel: Absolutely. And so if people did want to plant trees and support the work you're doing, how can they find you and Eden and to learn more and support the work you're doing?

 

Steve:   Yeah. Easiest thing in the world, just edenprojects.org, our website and it's projects plural because there is a wonderful organization in the UK that is doing some good work and their Eden project where Eden Reforestation Projects. And again, every dollar plants, 10 trees and in most of our countries and most of our systems. So pick your country, pick your system, do you want mountain forest and Nepal? You want lowland forest in Nepal? Do you want agroforestry and Haiti and the list goes on and jump in, make a difference what you might consider small? What if a million people started given $20 a month or 20 pounds a month better? Yeah. All of a sudden you a collectively are reforesting entire countries. So that's, that's my heart.

 

Daniel: Absolutely. Well, Steve, thank you very much. It's really inspiring to hear the work you're doing.

 

Daniel: I'm glad to see and to hear the massive amount of positive change you're making in the world and it's 10 cents at a time. So very cool.

Steve: Yeah. Cool. Closing comment. It’s really not me. We have an incredible team and there are literally thousands of villagers and wonderfully dedicated national directors, international directors, monitoring verification folks that are doing the real work. I think I've planted 18 trees myself so far. They're doing the work. I just get to be the blabber mouth that shares the good news. So, it's, it's fun.

Daniel: That is fun. Yeah. Well, maybe you'll get to plant plants in 19th tree at some point next year.

Steve: Oh, get to 19 this year and next year.

Daniel: Don't want to rush it. Take your time.

Steve: Thank you. I appreciate the care and consideration.

 

Thank you very much for listening to this episode. 

 

If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Steve Fitch and Eden Reforestation Projects, please visit edenprojects.org, and like their Facebook page, @edenreforestationprojects. You can also follow them on Twitter @eden_reforest for more updates!

 

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