Tree Planting So White? Bizarre Racism at Vice

Matt Philbin | November 12, 2021
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Hey, Whitey! Yeah, you, the one about to send cash to your favorite environmental grift! Cease and desist. White people should not try to combat climate change. Only black, brown and various “indigenous” people can do it right. 

I know this because I read it on Vice. A delightful young person named Anya Zoledziowski has penned an article asserting that “Tree Planting Is a White Person’s Solution to Climate Change.” What’s white about it? I’m still not sure, but Zoledziowski is an “award-winning staff reporter at VICE World News,” whose “reporting focuses on a wide-range of social justice issues, including Indigenous affairs, race, politics, sex worker rights, and the disproportionate harm experienced by racialized communities as the climate crisis worsens.” So I have to trust her.

Her article comes on the heels of a dopy social media episode where somebody claimed they’d plant a tree for every picture of a pet people responded with. Shockingly, they didn’t have enough trees. Dumb situation, but Zoledzioski is here to make you think deeper about it.

“The reality,” she says, "is that tree-planting initiatives are not always done right, and are rarely subjected to meaningful oversight—have you ever checked if that trendy brand planted a seedling after you bought your plaid?”

Related: Gov. Northam’s Richmond Time Capsule Encapsulates Our Stupid Times

Well, no. On the other hand, I don’t think I own any trendy plaids. But I guess a lot of (white) progressives do and they get trees planted along with their purchases. “‘This is very much a PR campaign and the consumer doesn't have time to look up and check. Besides, a lot of this isn’t transparent and you can't find out,' [tropical forest ecologist Robin] Chazdon said.‘There needs to be an independent body or standards that regulate tree-planting initiatives.’”

Oh. We need regulations to plant trees. Yes, and this is where the whiteness thing comes in:

Tree-planting efforts have turned into a frantic Wild West, with many viral initiatives, especially the Instagrammable ones, proving to be the environmentalist’s version of a white girl screaming “this is my song” at the club. They mostly just make us feel good. They also sometimes cause more harm than good. 

Damn white girls! “Whether their intentions are good, heart is in the right place, it doesn't mean it's going to work,” said BJ McManama, an organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “I would say white is an attitude, not a colour. It’s an approach to life.”

Wypipo, am I right?

“We can’t plant trees everywhere higgledy-piggledy. That won’t work,” renowned botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger told the Tyee. “We need to know what we are doing, and you can’t go all asswise about stuff.”

(She just wanted to say “higgledy-piggledy.”) Indeed not, because we could be exacerbating arboreal racism. Trees don’t often get planted in the inner cities. “To spot Portland's wealthy areas, look no further than tree coverage, Anjeanette Brown, a recently appointed member of Portland’s Urban Forestry Commission, told VICE News.” 

Wow, I’m finally understanding the origin of the phrase “leafy suburb.” Not so the casual racism of the white people thing, unless it refers to progressive white people -- I suppose they really are the pros at ineffectual posing and meaningless gestures. 

But I do know this: the climate change true believers of the environmental left have no patience for planting trees and other economically nondestructive ways of helping the environment. And if you do, you too may be a white person. 

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