Trees & Seas Festival Is Bridging Ocean and Forest Conservation for the 2nd Year in a Row
A grizzly bear emerges from the forest to snatch up a salmon returning from the ocean. A water bottle discarded by woodland campers gets blown into a nearby stream and washes out to sea, where it makes an accidental meal for a whale.
Like all aspects of our natural environment, marine and forest ecosystems are intimately connected, for good and for ill. Raising awareness of this connection is the mission of Plastic Oceans’ Trees & Seas Festival, which kicked off for the second year in a row on Friday, September 16.
“Last year laid the foundation for what I believe will become one the most anticipated and valued annual celebrations of our planet,” Founder and CEO of Plastic Oceans International Julie Andersen said in a press release.
Putting Down Roots
The second-ever Trees & Seas Festival will run from September 16 to 25 with events, tree-plantings and beach cleans around the world. The festival is the brainchild of Plastic Oceans International, a U.S.-based nonprofit that works to combat ocean plastic pollution by empowering sustainable communities.
“We recognize that ocean plastic pollution is in fact as much of a land issue as it is a ocean issue, highlighting the importance of collective efforts in a range of conservation areas worldwide to end plastic pollution as it’s a problem that must be solved TOGETHER, from local communities, NGOs, enterprises and governments worldwide,” Plastic Oceans Marketing and Brand Manager Liv Ward told EcoWatch in an email.
The Trees & Seas Festival is part of Plastic Oceans’ BlueCommunities initiative to work with local partners to create global change and is another example of the interconnectedness of human and non-human life on Earth.
“We’re building a bridge between ocean and forest conservation, emphasizing that we are all one planet … one environment … and in the end, one global community united in our effort to foster a healthier and more just planet for all,” Trees & Seas says on its website.
The first Trees & Seas Festival launched in 2021 after it was delayed by a year because of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The organizers had always hoped to turn it into a yearly event, and the success of the 2021 programming showed that the idea had landed in fertile soil.
“Last year’s engagement around the world exceeded our expectations, which was motivation to continue our festival efforts this year,” Ward said.
The 2021 festival had a physical “hub” in Chile’s Chiloé Island in Patagonia, but also featured more than 100 free events in 32 places worldwide and led to the planting of 100,000 trees and more than 25,000,000 square feet of land and water being cleared of waste, according to a post-festival announcement. While the on-the-ground planting and cleaning efforts are important, participants were also excited to learn more about the ecosystems they were protecting.
“The general feedback that people gave was that it wasn’t just about the cleanup and reforestation activities they physically did, but the takeaways they learned about our environment and their connection with nature and other individuals empowered to make a [difference],” Ward said.
If the pandemic that delayed the festival’s first go was an example of the downsides of global connection, the way that the organizers worked around these obstacles is an example of that connection’s promise.
“Online events allowed us to reach and engage more individuals from all corners of the world, breaking barriers we face with in-person events, something we want to now continue in our future festivals,” Ward said. “We made all our virtual content 100% free and available to the public to make it accessible for all those wanting to join the movement.”
This year, Trees & Seas is returning with a fully decentralized program and even more ambitious goals. The festival aims to plant more than 150,000 trees, clean more than 53 million square feet of land and sea and educate more than 100,000 children in more than 100 different locations.
“Our hub this year is ‘planet earth/where any environmentalist’s feet are standing,'” Ward said.
On-the-ground events include an art workshop in Montreal, Canada; a Beach Cleanup at the Carter Nature Preserve in Maine; a film screening in Riviera Maya, Mexico; and a combination cleanup and book talk in Pedreña, Spain. You can visit the site’s events map to find an activity near you. In addition, anyone with an internet connection can tune into the Plastic Oceans International panel discussions.
However, if you can’t attend an event this week, don’t worry. Trees & Seas is also organizing year round programming to accommodate the fact that not every community that wants to participate faces the same conditions. For example, the 2021 hub of Chiloé island actually held a pre-festival in July because it was a better time for seed-planting.
The island has lost more than 10,000 hectares of native woodland to human activity in the last ten years, and more trees succumbed to devastating wildfires in 2021. The island’s pre-festival was held from July 21 to 24 with a goal of planting 250,000 trees.
“My purpose is to leave a mark here on the island,” Javier Garcia, the founder of BlueCommunities member ÜÑÜ, which organized the event, said, ”from the reproduction of biodiversity, to systemic educational programs, to generating a virtuous link with the environment. ÜÑÜ, you see, is from the indigenous Mapuche language, Mapudungun. It’s a berry from these southern parts which has antioxidant properties. We humans, we can be toxic, but if we move consciously through the world we can also remove toxicity. Like the ÜÑÜ berry, we can be antioxidants.”
And the message of Trees & Seas is that anyone can follow this bit of local wisdom to become an antioxidant in their own community and ecosystem.