An old adage suggests that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

While taking photos and talking to participants during a tree planting event earlier this summer, my thoughts and preconceived notions shifted from skeptical to more positive and optimistic. The tree planting was part of a legal settlement with the Water Gremlin company and involved the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Tree Trust. My first thought was that this mandatory planting of trees in a park was simply a grudging appeasement stemming from a settlement. However, the more I talked to the participants, I began to appreciate the genuinely positive impact, especially looking 20 or 30 years into the future. I was told — to help prevent the possibility of some sort of blight (like Dutch elm disease or emerald ash borer) wiping out all of the trees at once — that a variety of species were being planted, including honey locust, Kentucky coffee, disease resistant elm and oak, some with a life expectancy exceeding 100 years.

A recent article titled “Tree planting ‘has mind-blowing potential’ to tackle climate crisis” that I first saw on The Guardian website, an international news site originating in the United Kingdom, featured the findings of a group of scientists in Switzerland, who, using satellite imagery to calculate how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas, suggested that planting a trillion trees around the world to help collect greenhouse gases could be “by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis.” They surmised that there is available land and with the appropriate funding and incentives the initiative was possible and would have positive results over time. It was not suggested that tree planting (or reforestation) was the only way to address the problem of global warming and climate change, but certainly a promising, well-researched component of any national or international strategy. Variations of the story appeared on several other news sites including The New York Times, CNN, and Science. More information about the study can be found at

During an interview taped earlier this year and recently rebroadcast on the television news program 60 Minutes, it was disappointing to see the high level of skepticism and even condescension that newly elected United States House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez faced concerning the “Green New Deal” policy package she was introducing. While I agree that she should be able to answer detailed questions about the ambitious proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions, while also transforming the economy, she should have been given the same level of respect as all government representatives by the interviewer (Anderson Cooper).

The ambition and scope of the “Green New Deal” is somewhat reminiscent of the space program in the 1960s. Some of the details in the recently aired PBS American Experience documentary “Chasing the Moon” revealed, among other things, that a successful outcome was far from a sure thing, while also reaffirming the perspective that while the astronauts were sent to explore the moon, they ended up really discovering the Earth. Also, if it was an elaborate hoax, as some suggest, the ability to meticulously create scads of audio, video and photographic evidence, along with keeping the more than 500,000 witnesses directly involved with the project and the Russian and Chinese governments silent for all these years is, in my opinion, a feat equally, if not more, impressive than actually flying a rocket to the moon.


Paul Dols is photojournalist/website editor for Press Publications. He can be reached at 651-407-1238 or

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