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Covid-19 pandemic will end, but it won’t happen soon or without scarring forever the lives of nearly all human beings. Someone will be gone, someone will see his/her loved ones pass away, all of us will have experienced an unprecedented situation, unique in the recent history of humankind. The pandemic is one of those events that will be covered by history books for many decades, if not in centuries to come, both for the event itself and for how our way of life will change from the local and global perspectives. Perhaps, especially for this latter aspect.
Not to forget what is happening, but also to convert the memory into a sign of hope and an encouraging act towards the planet, we could do something to leave a mark of these truly exceptional times. One of the most suitable actions could be planting a “pandemic tree”.
Why a tree – Because a tree is a form of life, because it will leave a living testimony for decades or centuries to come, because it will help improving the planet ecosystem and help fighting climate change as well, one of greatest challenges the humankind has still to deal with.
Which type of tree - You should choose a tree having both the function of witnessing the pandemic and a straightforward value either for those who plant it or for the community in which he/she lives. It could be a fruit tree, an ornamental tree, a forest essence, or an arboreal specimen with any other function. Should you have no ideas, it would be wise to get in touch with some local experts who will suggest one or more species with a high success rate and not posing a threat to the local ecosystem. In particular, your choice shouldn't fall upon an invasive species, that is a plant native to other areas of the planet which invades your local ecosystems by taking away room from your local native species.
Where to plant the tree - This is a very important choice. The tree should be planted in a spot that will be seen easily by many in the future, so to play the role of a pandemic witness. Not only that, it must be in an appropriate context from a naturalistic and ecological points of view. Fruit and ornamental trees could grow into gardens, vegetable gardens, courtyards, and other spaces in towns and cities, including neglected and decayed areas. Planting in a forest could be done by planting along a path through the woods. In this case, your variety should belong to the local arboreal flora. Most of all, it could be planted in nursery schools and primary schools. All things considered, therefore, we must make sure that local laws are implemented and that we have the permission, if required, to plant a tree there.
Where to find the tree - It depends on where you live. You could buy from a nursery who practices sustainable agriculture, start it from a seed, receive it from a germplasm bank or a botanical garden (this could be the case for schools) and so on. In no case you should dig it from an existing natural area and risk damaging an established ecosystem.
When to plant - At a time well-suited with the normal planting times of your zone (or sowing, which is not excluded) during the pandemic or at its end. Above all, we should plant a tree when we are able to carry out planting in full compliance with public health and safety regulations.
How to plant - Follow the good rules of arboriculture and the advice of local experts or manuals and instructions on how to plant the species you chose. In general, it is just a matter of digging a hole large enough to accommodate the root ball, putting some organic fertilizer at the bottom, covering it with a little soil, then placing the plant upright and covering the hole. A stake could support the tree in the first months or years of life. Periodic watering will ensure its rooting.
How to label it - Give room to imagination, but a tag or plaque with the reason for the planting of the tree, maybe the choice of the tree type, the specifics of the planting day, and the name of the person who planted it could be very useful. Sharing this action on social networks could promote dissemination on a global scale. We could use the hashtag #pandemictree.
What to do now - First, comply with rules set by local authorities, such as stay-home orders and social distancing. Then share this idea until it becomes everyone's heritage. Last of all, start planning the tree planting!