A few days later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau echoed these sentiments on Twitter: “Addressing climate change is one of the great global projects of our time — and Canada intends to show leadership.”

Once again, the environment has been thrust into the spotlight. The question is — how do we keep it here? And, what can Canadians really do to make a difference?

There is good news. A global movement exists and it’s growing. On April 22, 1970, the very first Earth Day, 20-million Americans rallied in public to demonstrate the pressing need for a healthy environment and better protection for forests, oceans, and wildlife. This energy quickly spread to the point 192 countries now celebrate Earth Day, including Canada.

More than 1.6-billion people depend on forests for food, water, fuel, medicine, jobs, and cultural livelihood. The importance of urban forests, in particular, is finally being recognized.

Today, the momentum continues, as political leaders from around the world gather in New York City to sign a new international agreement on climate change, drafted in the wake of last year’s COP21 conference in Paris, France. At the same time, the global network of Earth Day organizations are kicking off an ambitious campaign to plant 7.8-billion trees, one for every person on the planet, by 2020. Canada’s contribution to this worldwide goal should be 35 million trees — one per person in Canada.

Root for trees

At a time when there is so much focus on electric and hybrid cars, new solar technology and emissions trading, the notion of planting trees can seem quaint — almost too simple. The reality is, restoring our forests remains the most cost-effective, health-promoting, and regenerative solution to climate change.

More than 1.6-billion people depend on forests for food, water, fuel, medicine, jobs, and cultural livelihood. The importance of urban forests, in particular, is finally being recognized. Research is highlighting how direct contact with trees helps people — and children especially — learn about nature in an otherwise built environment; not to mention, the new phenomenon of nature deficit disorder in city dwellers who increasingly spend more time indoors.

Forests also support up to 80 percent of terrestrial biodiversity and play a vital role in safeguarding the climate by naturally sequestering carbon and removing other pollutants from the air. This process is why it’s so devastating that 32-million acres of forest vanish each year. Over the past 1,200 years, we have lost 46 percent of our global tree cover and — at the current rate of deforestation — we’re on track to lose the remaining 54 percent within the next 200 years.

People and forests must start to grow together. We need to keep reforestation at the forefront of any climate change discussion, and the best way to ensure it happens is to get outside.

The most recent global commitments supporting our tree canopy are outlined in the New York Declaration on Forests, which has been signed by dozens of governments, including Canada — all of whom are pledging to halve the rate of deforestation by 2020, end it by 2030, and restore 370-million acres of forest by 2020, which is a geographic area larger than the size of India.

Achieving these commitments could reduce carbon emissions by nearly 9-billion tonnes per year by 2030.

Get outside

For all of these reasons, this Earth Day, we are #Rooting4Trees. Our campaign supports the first step toward a big goal, securing 25,000 legacy trees for Earth Day — because if Canada can commit to planting 25,000 trees per day, we can reach 9-million trees per year, and 35-million trees by 2020.

People and forests must start to grow together. We need to keep reforestation at the forefront of any climate change discussion, and the best way to ensure it happens is to get outside. The more time we spend amongst trees, the more likely we are to keep their importance front and centre whenever we work, vote, buy, play, teach, protest, and so forth.

We also need to recognize, while every tree counts, there is greater value in strategic reforestation than in one-off tree plantings. Diverse species, mixed levels of maturity, and soil composition are just some of the elements that make forests highly complex ecosystems. Because of their complexity, Earth Day Canada believes the best course of action right now is investing in smart, coordinated reforestation campaigns.

So let’s get started. Make a donation. Grow the forest. Spread the word.