By Rohma Sadaqat
Something absolutely wonderful is happening in the world right now.
Perhaps, some of you might have already heard or read about it. Many on social media have dubbed it as the ‘Largest YouTube Collaboration in History’, an international movement that has seen over 600 YouTubers, streamers, influencers, and content creators band together to save the planet — one tree at a time.
How did it all begin? Well, it begins like many Internet sensations do — with a meme. YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson, more commonly known by his online alias ‘MrBeast’, was riding the waves of his skyrocketing Internet popularity, when he decided to ask fans to set a subscriber milestone challenge. Prior to that, his videos included stunts such as buying everything in a store and donating it to a food bank and tipping waiters and waitresses thousands of dollars for a glass of water. When he asked fans what he should do when his channel hit 20 million subscribers, comments and suggestions poured in; among them was comment on reddit that stood out.
Set in the format of the Lisa Homer presentation meme, a redditor petitioned MrBeast to plant 20 million trees and ‘single-handedly save Earth’. MrBeast posted the meme on his Twitter account and Internet denizens were quick to tell him to get in touch with former Nasa engineer and YouTuber Mark Rober to make it happen. Several digital creators also chimed in and offered their support if something were to be developed. This was in May and in June MrBeast hit the 20 million subscriber mark. Fans were quick to remind him about the challenge and he assured them that he was working on it. Last month, the online community finally received the much-awaited YouTube video.
“You guys spammed me to plant 20 million trees on Twitter, reddit, and all over my comments section… so I made it happen,” MrBeast said in his viral YouTube video, posted on October 25. Along with Rober, MrBeast had teamed up with the Arbor Day Foundation, the largest non-profit tree-planting organisation in the world, and the TeamTrees initiative was born. For every dollar that is donated at teamtrees.org, the foundation will plant a tree. The saplings are carefully selected so that they are native to the area in which they are being planted. The goal is to plant the trees on every continent, excluding Antarctica, and in forests that are in a critical state. The foundation has stated that not all the trees will survive, but the mortality rate should remain at around three per cent. The trees will be planted starting January 2020, and the initiative will have a completion deadline of December 2022.
No sooner had the video gone live, when donations started pouring in. MrBeast kicked things off with a $100,000 donation, to which he added another $100,002 the following day. Rober and YouTuber Jeffree Star each donated $50,000. PewDiePie, in true PewDiePie fashion, donated $69,420. Within 24 hours, TeamTrees had crossed the $4 million mark, and by the end of the month donations had passed the $10 million half-way mark. Content creators such as Jacksepticeye, Davie504, Mini Ladd, Ninja and Captain Disillusion were all posting videos on their channels about the initiative and encouraging fans to donate, even if it was a small amount. However, the more significant contributions rolled in when large corporations began to take note. Tesla CEO Elon Musk donated $1 million ‘For Treebeard’ and changed his Twitter handle to ‘Treelon’ for the occasion. Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke donated $1,000,001 ‘For the Lorax’. Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, pitched in $350,000, while Susan Diane Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, donated $200,000.
At the time of this writing, donations at the TeamTrees website just crossed the $13 million mark. Like many that have donated, I have no doubt that we will reach, if not exceed, the 20 million trees target before the end of this year.
Rohma doesn’t mind speaking for the trees. In fact, she actively encourages everyone else to do so as well. #TeamTrees