A grizzly bear emerges from the forest to snatch a salmon returning from the ocean. A water bottle discarded by forest campers is blown into a nearby stream and washed out to sea, where it accidentally provides a meal for a whale.
Like all aspects of our natural environment, marine and forest ecosystems are closely linked, for better or for worse. Raising awareness of this connection is the mission of Plastic Oceans’ Trees & Seas Festival, which kicked off for the second consecutive year on Friday 16 September.
“Last year laid the groundwork for what I believe will become one of our planet’s most anticipated and cherished annual celebrations,” said Julie Andersen, founder and CEO of Plastic Oceans International, in a press release.
The second Trees & Seas Festival will take place from September 16th to 25th with events, tree planting and beach clean-ups around the world. The festival is the brainchild of Plastic Oceans International, a US-based nonprofit dedicated to tackling ocean plastic pollution by empowering sustainable communities.
“We recognize that ocean plastic pollution is indeed both a land problem and an ocean problem, and emphasize the importance of concerted efforts across a number of protected areas worldwide to end plastic pollution as it is a problem that… must be solved TOGETHER. by local communities, NGOs, businesses and governments worldwide,” Liv Ward, Plastic Oceans marketing and branding manager, told EcoWatch in an email.
The Trees & Seas Festival is part of Plastic Oceans’ Blue Communities initiative to work with local partners to bring about global change and is another example of the interconnectedness of human and non-human life on Earth.
“Bridging ocean and forest conservation, we affirm that we are all one planet…one environment…and ultimately one global community united in our quest to advance a healthier and fairer planet for all,” Trees & Seas says on its website.
The first Trees & Seas Festival kicked off in 2021 after being postponed by a year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers had always hoped to make this an annual event and the success of the 2021 program showed that the idea had landed on fertile ground.
“Last year’s global engagement exceeded our expectations, which has motivated us to continue our festival efforts this year,” said Ward.
The 2021 festival had a physical “hub” on the Chilean island of Chiloé in Patagonia, but also included more than 100 free events in 32 locations worldwide and resulted in 100,000 trees being planted and more than 25,000,000 square feet of land and water being de-littered were , according to a post-festival announcement. While on-site planting and clean-up efforts are important, attendees were also excited to learn more about the ecosystems they protect.
“The general feedback people gave was that it wasn’t just about the cleanup and reforestation activities they were doing physically, but also the takeaways they were learning about our environment and their connection with nature and other people who are able to do something [difference]’ Ward said.
If the pandemic that delayed the festival’s initial launch was an example of the downsides of global connection, the way organizers have circumvented those obstacles is an example of the promise of that connection.
“Online events have allowed us to reach and engage more people from all corners of the world and to break down barriers we face with in-person events, something we now hope to continue with our future festivals,” Ward said. “We’ve made all of our virtual content 100% free and open to the public to make it accessible to anyone who wants to join the movement.”
This year, Trees & Seas returns with a fully decentralized program and even more ambitious goals. The festival aims to plant more than 150,000 trees, cleanse 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 the feet of all environmentalists are,'” Ward said.
Onsite events include an art workshop in Montreal, Canada; a beach cleanup at Carter Nature Reserve in Maine; a film screening in Riviera Maya, Mexico; and a combination cleanup and book talk in Pedreña, Spain. You can visit the website’s event map to find an activity near you. In addition, anyone with an internet connection can participate in the Plastic Oceans International panel discussions.
However, if you can’t attend an event this week, don’t worry. Trees & Seas also organizes a year-round program to reflect the fact that not every community wishing to participate faces the same conditions. For example, the 2021 center on the island of Chiloé actually held a pre-festival in July because it was a better time for sowing.
The island has lost more than 10,000 hectares of native forest to human activity in the past decade, and in 2021 more trees fell to devastating wildfires. The island’s pre-festival was held from July 21-24 with the goal of planting 250,000 trees.
“My goal is to leave a mark here on the island,” said Javier Garcia, founder of BlueCommunities member ÜÑÜ, which organized the event, “from reproducing biodiversity, to systemic education programs, to creating a virtuous connection with the Vicinity. ÜÑÜ comes from the indigenous Mapuche language Mapudungun. It is a berry native to these southern parts that has antioxidant properties. We humans can be toxic, but if we move consciously through the world, we can also remove toxins. Like the ÜÑÜ berry, we can be antioxidants.”
And the message of Trees & Seas is that everyone can follow this local wisdom to become an antioxidant in their own community and ecosystem.
The Trees & Seas Festival is presented by Montes Wines in partnership with Natracare, EcoWatch, BambuuBrush, One Tree Planted and members of BlueCommunities worldwide.