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  • Writer's pictureMika Vanhanen

20 Years of Forests for Peace: Marking the Day in History

The Dawn of a Global Movement
It was a sunny day in September, marking not just the transition of seasons but the beginning of a movement destined to leave a profound legacy. Our journey commenced at noon in New Zealand, leveraging the world's time zones to create a wave of greenery that would ripple across the globe, symbolizing a continuous embrace of peace and nature, and concluding in Hawaii 24 hours later.
Inspired by the monumental work of Wangari Maathai, who would later be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, we embarked on an initiative that would intertwine nature, education, and unity. As a teacher at Pataluoto School in Joensuu, Finland, I witnessed firsthand the enthusiasm and hope that tree planting instilled in our community. Despite the challenges, including a small spruce that didn't survive only to be replaced with resilient spirit, the seed of a global movement was sown.
Our initiative, celebrated by children and educators worldwide, quickly demonstrated its potential to inspire change. From its modest beginnings with 70 schools across 30 countries, our tree planting for peace initiative has blossomed into a force of over 10,000 schools in 157 countries. In Indonesia alone, 3000 schools joined to plant trees for peace. Our efforts have been recognized with numerous awards, including the WWF Panda Prize and the Global Junior Challenge. I have had the honor of being a candidate for the United Nation's Forest Prize and the Nordic Environment Prize, underscoring the global appreciation and support for our mission.
Connecting to the Bigger Picture
A pivotal moment in our journey was a video call with Jane Goodall, whose endorsement and support magnified our efforts. She shared, "Hello, I'm Jane Goodall and how I wish that I could be with you. I'm very passionate about trees, protecting forests, restoring forests, so this is a wonderful day. Please know that I am with you in spirit and maybe in another year we can all be together planting trees of tomorrow." This heartfelt message from Jane Goodall, emphasizing her commitment to forest conservation, has been a beacon for our efforts.
With over 30 million trees planted, we've not only contributed to the planet's health but also to a culture of peace that transcends borders. This effort symbolizes the beacon of hope and unity we aim to offer to the world, showcasing the strength found in collective action.
A Call to Action for Legacy
As we approach the 20th anniversary of this impactful initiative, we warmly invite individuals, schools, communities, and organizations globally to join us in celebrating and solidifying this tradition. Our collective aspiration is for our annual tree planting day to gain official recognition alongside the International Day of Peace, thereby creating a lasting legacy for generations to come.
This year, on September 21, 2024, let us come together with renewed passion and commitment. By participating, you are not just planting a tree; you are sowing seeds of peace and sustainability that will grow into a greener, more harmonious world. This action echoes the values upheld by inspirational figures like Jane Goodall and Wangari Maathai, whose lives remind us of the power of collective effort for positive change.
We extend this invitation to everyone—individuals eager to make a difference, schools looking to educate and inspire, communities seeking to enhance their local environments, and organizations aiming to amplify their impact on global sustainability. Please register your intent to participate at www.pacfpeace.net and become part of a movement that transcends borders and unites us all in the cause of environmental stewardship and peace.
Your support is crucial as we strive to have this day recognized by the United Nations, transforming our vision into a globally celebrated event that marries the ideals of peace and environmental consciousness. Together, let's create a legacy that not only commemorates our dedication but also inspires future generations to continue this vital work.
Together, let's plant trees and peace, forging a lasting testament to our shared commitment to the planet and each other.

Finnish participants 21 Sep 2004

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