Going for the Gold Leaf: The One Million Tree Project


The Olympic games often show us the greatness possible within humanity – our strengths, our teamwork, our ever expanding dreams for glory and defying the odds. This Olympic games opening ceremony focused on an area humans are still struggling with: Global Warming. As we witness individuals push themselves to the brink of their abilities and imagination, it was a welcome juxtaposition to also consider what we have yet to achieve in becoming more conscious of the threats facing our planet. These ideas combine to create a window into what we CAN do, and at the forefront was the work of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots.

How do you fight a problem that’s so much bigger than you?

The Shanghai Roots & Shoots team are a part of the Roots & Shoots network of youth led initiatives which create curious and innovative conservation activists and solutions to local and global challenges facing people, animals and the environment. The Shanghai R&S Million Tree Project was featured in the Rio 2016 Olympics opening ceremony video and was a reminder of all that we can make happen when we choose to make a difference. To date, the project has planted two million trees in desertified areas in China, mainly in Inner Mongolia, enlisting the involvement of hundreds of companies and tens of thousands volunteers. 

See the video footage below:

Some magnificent photos of the project:

Tree planting in Inner Mongolia in China on 23-25 April 2011.

Tree planting in Inner Mongolia in China on 23-25 April 2011.

Tree planting in Inner Mongolia in China on 23-25 April 2011.

Tree planting in Inner Mongolia in China on 23-25 April 2011.

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The Olympic games motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” meansFaster, Higher, Stronger,” and represents the constant push to break barriers of human greatness. Perhaps the united rings, the symbol of nations coming together, and this message could be applied to our ability to care for the earth, with a new motto and a new name: “Purposeful, Dutiful, Hopeful” The Earth Games. It is also important to be conscious of the ways in which our choices for greater goals can have harmful effects or negligent effects on the environments or people in surrounding areas; this is something that cannot and should not be dismissed. We know we can do better than we’ve ever dreamed as long as we go for the gold and work together to protect our planet, people and the environment.

Start your own Roots & Shoots Project here. 

About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Director of Storytelling & Marketing for Communications & Partnerships at the Jane Goodall Institute USA, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Jane Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission to create a better world for all by protecting the interconnections between people, other animals, and the environment. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and a minor in Biology, and is pursuing a Master's of Science in Environmental Science & Policy at Johns Hopkins University with a focus on Environmental Justice. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, now a D.C. resident, she has a varied background including 10+ years of expert communications and digital marketing in the social and environmental non-profit sector. Her intersectional approach to this work has been shaped by a holistic world-view, having traveled to Madagascar and Ecuador for conservation research projects, leading communications for youth social justice filmmaking organizations, and as a part of several professional groups advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in environmental spaces including Greens REALIGN. With skills ranging from conservation fieldwork, policy and advocacy campaigns, strategic communications, art, digital media, and design, Ashley believes in sharing information to empower and in the magic of storytelling to transform hearts and minds. Through growing understanding, empathy, and justice, she is igniting positive change to create that better, more equitable world, every day.