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How two YouTubers raised enough money to plant 20 million trees in only a couple of months

The earth could run out of trees completely in the next 300 years. Can YouTubers actually help reduce deforestation?

Mr. Beast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, is a YouTuber known for giving large sums of money to random people for doing challenges. He and ex-NASA engineer Mark Rober started a fundraiser in partnership with the non-profit Arbor Day Foundation that will remove 1.6 million tons of carbon and 116 thousand tons of chemical air pollution by planting trees. Famous celebrities and business owners such as owner of Shopify Tobias Luke and tech entrepreneur Elon Musk have showed their support of “Team Trees” by promoting it and some of them even donated up to a million dollars. 

Scientists have estimated that humans are cutting down over 15 billion trees per year. In the entire world there’s over 3.041 trillion trees. One study projects that the earth could run out of trees completely in the next 300 years.

You usually wouldn’t think that YouTuber could actually help reduce the impact of the global problem of deforestation. But Donaldson wanted to try.

The famous YouTuber was closing in on 20 million subscribers and one of his fans made a suggestion that he start a fundraiser to plant 20 million trees. Donaldson liked the idea. He and Rober and officially announced that partnership with Arbor Day Foundation to try to raise 20 million dollars before 2020 to fund the planting of the same number of trees. The official announcement was at the end of October on Rober’s and Donaldson’s YouTube channels. They called the fundraiser, “Team Trees.”

Although their deadline was only a couple of months away, with the support of fans, big companies and hundreds of big YouTubers promoting it and donating money, they smashed it. Elon Musk donated one million dollars. Then Shopify’s CEO Tobi Lütke donated one million and one dollars to beat Elon’s #1 spot. Donaldson himself donated $200,000 dollars to the cause. 

Team Trees succeeded because of the online community promoting it, including over 400 global creators. On Twitter and Instagram alone, over 556,000 posts with reference to Team Trees gathered over 4.6 billion views.

After the fundraiser was announced, some people were sceptical whether or not the money would do any good in the end. They thought that is was just for publicity and not to actually help the environment. People also said they should have aimed for a smaller amount of trees and maintained them better. They thought that the creators behind this project were just being selfish instead of doing the absolutely most they could. 

Planting 20 million trees sounds very impressive but was it enough? In 2019, Ethiopian residents planted over 350 million trees in just 12 hours. People from Ethiopia started planting trees to combat deforestation. The prime minister tweeted, “We’re halfway to our goal,” just six hours into the day. 

The tree planting initiatives both by the YouTubers and by Ethiopia are admirable, but planting the trees is only half of the solution. Planting the trees is of little benefit if the trees die. According to Eike Lüdeling, department head of Horticultural Sciences at the University of Bonn, “Sometimes it’s probably a better idea to plant fewer trees and really take care of them.”   

The only way these trees being planted will make an actual impact on our world and counteract greenhouse gasses that humans produce every day if these trees can actually survive and grow to be old.

Arbor Day Foundation told Verge, “We’re just not planting the trees and walking away.” Part of the donated money will go to maintaining the trees and making sure they don’t just die. Arbor Day says that they do not know the exact survival rate for the trees yet but they say it’s estimated to be around 97% according to data from the US Forest Service. 

The trees will start to get planted in 2020 and work will be completed before December of 2020. The trees will be planted “in a forest of high need around the globe” according to the Team Trees website. 

Woody Nelson from Arbor Day Foundation says that the majority of the money raised will go to “bringing forests back to their natural state which takes a lot of trees.”

Originally, Robers, with his engineering background, was excited about finding novel ways to get the trees into the ground. On his announcement video on his channel, he suggested planting trees with drones. His video was meant to be goofy but the using drones to plant trees is not totally out of the question. UK tech company Dendra plans to plant 500 billion trees before 2060 solely using drone tree planting technology. This company says that their drones can plant two trees per second. Dendra says that using drones to plant trees is much more efficient and cheaper than using the traditional method of planting trees by hand.

It’s cool to think that online creators can actually impact the one of the most worrying problems on earth, deforestation. These two YouTubers have done something that could genuinely benefit the world on a global scale. 

Mr. Beast started posting YouTube gaming videos at the age of thirteen under the username MrBeast6000. After posting youtube videos regularly for five years, still relatively unknown, in 2017 he went viral with an odd stunt that might not seem that exciting. He recorded himself counting out loud from 1 to 100,000. It took him 40 hours. The video went viral and has since amassed 18 million views.

This attention-getting stunt became something of a blueprint for the young YouTuber. He made a couple more videos where he counted to high amounts and then started a new approach to stunts: giving away large sums of money. This was the thing that really helped him blow up. He has continued to find new ways to surprise his audience and keep the Internet interested, often with very simple gimmicks like giving away $100,000 to a homeless person or challenging a group of people to keep their hands on a pile of a million dollars in cash. The person who was able to keep their hand on for the longest walked away with the pile.

Many YouTubers start controversies or get in fights with other YouTubers to gain subscribers. Mr. Beast has avoided these conflict-based strategies. His “Team Trees” campaign is an especially positive one. Yes, he get subscribers but it’s actually doing something good instead of just putting out more negativity.

When he announced the reforestation challenge he was on the cusp of 20 million subscribers. Now he nearly 29 million.

Image credit: Wikimedia.org

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