With ecosystems spanning from the heights of the Andes to the western edge of the Amazon rainforest, the South American nation of Ecuador boasts extraordinary ecological value. It is, after all, the mainland hub of the Galápagos Islands and the mother country of Yasuni National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth.
Decades of intense logging, mining, and road building have taken a disastrous toll on the forests of Ecuador, which now cover just over 17% of the country’s land mass, but as of May 16, the Ecuadorian people have decided to change that statistic. As part of a new goal to restore more land than is deforested every year, the Ministry of Environment organized Siembratón, “the Great Planting” in Spanish, to break a Guinness World Record for largest reforestation in a day.
Siembratón called for 35,000 volunteers from across the country to spend a day planting native Ecuadorian trees and undergrowth at designated areas of concern. Of the requested volunteers, 44,883 reported for duty, planting 647,250 trees over 5,000 acres of land. Those who could not reach the sites or could not register online were invited to plant at home, amounting to over 220 plant species contributing to our environmental health.
The Amazon rainforest is widely known as the “lungs of the world” for its incomparable role in producing oxygen and filtering greenhouse gases. The Siembratón project, apart from being a photo opportunity and another hashtag, is an encouraging sign that people are waking up to this fact. The event broke three Guinness World Records: for the number of species planted, for the number of plants planted, and for the number of volunteers in action on a day.
To recap, this reforestation project brought out the largest volunteer turnout in history and planted the most plants in a day, in history.
Remote participants in the Siembratón event were encouraged to post pictures of their own plantings with the hashtag #SiembratonEC as part of an even more widespread effort. India, Turkey, and the Philippines have all broken their own planting records, and there is no limit to the number of countries who can join this competition. By following the example of Ecuador, who also holds the record for most plastic bottles recycled, the rest of the world may yet find balance between our financial goals and our needs for survival.