Dorot

 
Plant a tree for every member

Why are we talking about trees?

Trees contribute enormously to our environment by absorbing harmful CO2, providing oxygen and ameliorating the climate, improving air quality, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife. Planting 37,000 trees, one for each member, will sequester approximately 37,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in 20 years' time (one 20-year-old tree will typically sequester one ton of carbon which is 3.67 tons of CO2 roughly equivalent to a year's CO2 footprint for one person in the UK).1 At the UN Climate Summit 2019 it was decided that over 11 billion trees will be needed to be planted to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigate global warming.2 Here in the UK, 50 million trees need to be planted to detoxify our air and restore lost wildlife habitats.

 

What are we going to do?

We hope to plant a symbolic US forest - a tree for every member, in a mass tree-planting campaign. Anyone will be able to buy a tree – or trees – to be part of this great community-wide project, making a tangible difference to the ecological health of the planet. This is a great opportunity to share a common aspiration and do immense good at the same time.

 

How?

We envision working with other organisations to make trees available for planting by individuals and communities in a variety of locations.

 

Trees & Human Life - Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski

In a passage discussing ethical warfare, the Torah forbids a besieging army from needlessly destroying fruit-bearing trees.3  Although the original verse is limited in scope, classical commentaries treat it as the source for ‘bal tashchit’, the ban against any wanton damage or wastage.4  

The Torah’s justification for this rule is the enigmatic phrase: ‘for a human being is a tree of the field’.5 Sifrey (c. 200 CE) explains that the produce of the soil (the tree) is necessary for human existence.6 Rabbi Yaakov Zvi Mecklenberg (d. 1865) develops this theme.  The Torah forbids us to use anything for the opposite of its intended purpose.  Since fruit trees sustain human life, we should not utilise their timbers to destroy the besieged city.7  Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch (d. 1882) adds that since fruit trees are essential resources, they are part of what the army is trying to obtain through the siege itself.  Since we do not besiege a city to destroy it, it follows that we do not destroy its trees, as they are part of the city.8  

These sources establish an important principle.  We must preserve natural resources that sustain and nurture human existence, even when we have an urgent and justifiable need for them.  It is self-deception to destroy the very resources we purport to protect.  It is fascinating that these concepts originate in the interplay between human beings and trees, suggesting that the Torah recognises the special connection between trees and the viability of human life.  

It is now understood that all trees – not just those that bear fruit – absorb carbon dioxide, the dominant greenhouse gas warming the earth.  Conserving existing trees and mass tree-planting schemes are aligned with the Torah’s understanding of our responsibilities to the environment and maintaining its capacity to sustain human life.  

That emphasis on sustainability informs a wonderful excerpt from the Talmud.  Choni HaMa’agal once saw a man planting a carob tree and was bemused to discover that it would not bear fruit for 70 years, long after the man’s likely demise.  The man simply said, ‘Did I find a desolate world?  Just as my ancestors planted trees for me, so will I plant trees for my descendants’.9

 


  1. ‘A one tonne carbon tree’, Econometrica, June 2011:  https://ecometrica.com/assets/one_tonne_carbon_tree_discussion_paper_3.pdf
  2. Woodland Trust: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/press-centre/2020/10/50-million-trees-t...
  3. Devarim 20:19. 
  4. See Rambam, Sefer HaMitzvot Prohibitive Commandments 57; Yad, Laws of Kings 6:10.
  5. Devarim ibid. 
  6. Sifrey Devarim Piska 203. 
  7. Commentary of Rabbi Y.Z. Mecklenberg ad loc. 
  8. Commentary of Rabbi S.R. Hirsch ad loc.
  9. Ta’anit 23a.