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Your life is complete once you have brought a child into the world, written a book and planted a tree. That’s apparently a good Spanish custom. My daughter Laura was born on 4 May 2003. Three years later Een Elftal Bondscoaches was published, followed by Verscheurd Catalonië last summer. And on 8 December 2019 I finally planted a small tree. I am 48 years old and all of a sudden I have fulfilled all three tasks. What should I do now?

I could look back with a sense of satisfaction on almost half a century that has brought me all kinds of amazing things. Five decades in which my world changed in no time at all. From a small, insulated society to an earth without any barriers. From a black and white television with two Dutch stations to a subscription to Netflix along with 158 million others. Within the space of almost fifty years, nearly everything has become possible that I, as a small child, did not even dare dream of. But everything has its price.

A bit of balance

Perhaps it would be a better idea to take a fresh look at the following fifty years. How do we restore some balance to our world where everything has to keep on growing? How do we prevent all of us from perishing due to the earth overheating because of our unbridled drive for innovation? When are we really going to take climate issues seriously enough that we will actually do something to change our destructive lifestyles?

Questions that are being raised these days at the climate summit in Madrid. It is unlikely that there will be a unanimous response to any of them. Opinions are still far too divided for that. From 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who is the face of a new generation sounding the alarm; to 73-year-old Donald Trump, who, as president of the United States, laughs off climate issues. And everything and anyone in the world in between. So, we won’t all be able to agree on anything anytime soon.

Planting a trillion trees

So let’s go back to that age-old Spanish wisdom. Having children, writing books and planting trees. If we take some of that as our guiding principles in life, everything will turn out all right in the end. And that is also what the Dutch company Land Life believes, who aim to reforest two billion hectares of the earth using innovative technology. About a trillion trees have to be planted in order to do that. A very noble ambition. Which I happily volunteered to participate in on a Sunday morning in Las Rozas, Madrid. I took part in a tree planting day aimed at revitalizing a local forest. Land Life has already planted more than a million trees all over the world this year. A first step has been made.

The author planting a tree.

Suddenly, a holly tree unexpectedly became a milestone in my life. I hope that it will survive me, so that my daughter’s generation can keep writing books and planting trees.