“We are not God. The Earth was there before us and it was given to us,” – Pope Francis writes in the Encyclical Praised Be, the guiding star for the protection of the Created. An appeal to the sense of responsibility of present and future generations. An invitation to “cultivate and take care” of the garden of the world, because our very existence depends on this “common home”. Technology can play a vital role in this regard, not only due to its practical contribution to environmental protection (just think of the important achievements in the field of renewable energy), but especially because it creates new research areas itself, offering cues that were unimaginable till not so long ago.
The creators of “Ecosia”, “Google”’s ecological alter ego, seem to have had this intuition. “Ecosia” raises funds from research carried out online to finance forest restocking. The objective they pursue is entirely expressed by their claim: “Plant trees while doing research on the Internet.” The concept is based on the use of advertising revenue to plant trees. And it seems to be working, so much so that according to the creators of the project, it allows to “give birth to” a tree every 10 seconds. Active users are over two million and nearly 3 million euros have been donated so far, which amounts to about 0.28 cents per shrub, since more than 4 million trees were planted worldwide. A slap in the face of those who use the Internet for the sole purpose of generating profit.
Besides, “Ecosia”, which was founded in December 2009, has generated 2.5 million euros destined to reforestation projects. It is a Berlin-based social-business that aims to measure its success by its positive impact on people and on the environment. The most important projects, for now, regard Burkina Faso and the Sahel Region hit by drought. The partners of the “green” search engine work together with local people. “We want to transform deserts into forests” – the founders say; namely, they want to bring water, plants, and animals back to arid regions.
Reforestation in Burkina Faso is an activity that concerns all four seasons, from the purchase of the seeds to the excavation of basins (half-moon ditches capable of containing up to 2,000 liters of water), from sowing (a mix of trees and grass seeds) to the care and monitoring (local people treat the shrubs and check progress). This is because, according to the “Ecosia team,” a territory that becomes more alive territory translates into more job opportunities, healthier animals and a more independent people.” The result is “stronger local economy” that “allows women and men to have their own income, which means – in its turn – that a greater number of children will go to school.” Forests that are part of the international project for the creation of a “Great Green Wall” in Africa, with the aim of improving environmental, social, and economic conditions.
In fact, trees can reactivate the water cycle in places where the desert has prevailed, which brought other plant species along. Water resources and cleaner food help to have a healthier life. The eco-web search engine, which makes transparent its procedures by publishing the receipts of their progress, reached in November 2014 one million financed trees. On that occasion, they announced they were planning on planting one billion trees by 2020. Sometimes, a click is enough to create a fairer world.