2018 is about trees for Rotary International



Rotary International established 2018 as the year to plant a tree.

To resume a call from 1990 to protect the environment, to plant a tree for every Rotary member, 1.2 million in all.

Last week, as part of the celebration of National Arbor Day on April 27, the Port St. Joe Rotary Club and students in one class at Port St. Joe Elementary School partnered to add four saplings to that growing list of millions.

Planting four fruit trees, two pear and two apple, along a straight, well, relatively straight, line next to the school’s Butteryfly Garden, which, with the arrival of spring, is bursting with ripening greens and other vegetables.

“This year for Rotary, it’s about planting trees,” said local member Lorinda Gingell. “A couple of years from now, the students here will be able to enjoy some apples and pears.”

With assistance from retired extension director, and all around good egg, Roy Lee Carter, the Rotarians and students labored, digging the holes, lining up the trees, adding the compost and water.

Ian H.S. Riseley, president of Rotary International, issued the call for tree planting this year, renewing a pledge made during a 1990 international convention by then-president Paulo Costa.

Costa issued his proclamation as a call to arms for Rotary to take a leadership role in “protecting our natural resources.”

That drive, to plant more than 1 million trees, one per Rotary member, resulted in the planting of more than 35 million trees, “absorbing carbon from the environment, releasing oxygen, cooling the air, improving soil quality, providing habitat and food for birds, animals and insects, and yielding a host of other benefits,” Riseley wrote to Rotary members.

But, Riseley added, while the trees flourished Rotary “has not carried its environmental commitment forward.”

The aim of 2018 is to put back on the agenda, front and center, “the state of our planet.”

The planet, Riseley noted, is being stressed: the oceans by 2050 will contain more weight in plastics than fish; global temperatures are on the rise; and 80 percent of those living in urban areas breath unsafe air (the number is 98 percent in low- and middle-income countries).

“That this change was caused by humans is not a subject of scientific debate,” Riseley wrote to the Rotary membership. “Nor is the likelihood of vast economic and human disruption if the trend continues unchecked.

“The need for action is greater than ever; and so is our ability to have a real impact.”

Father Tommy Dwyer of the Port St. Joe Rotary said the goal of one tree for every member is being exceeded across the globe, with some chapters going far beyond the one-to-one ratio.

Performing the planting with the youngsters fulfills another emphasis for Riseley.

“Our planet belongs to all of us, and to our children, and to their children,” he wrote. “It is for all of us to protect.”