A small group of volunteer gardeners and tree surgeons are tackling global warming one tree at a time. How? By using cloned sequoias and coastal redwoods from California’s Sierra Nevada region. The trees, which were growing 1,000 years before Christ walked the earth, are as tall as twenty-story buildings and capped with mushroom-like canopies. It is from these green awnings that the arborists take clippings and start the cloning process.

Send in the clones.

Cloning plants is nothing new to horticulturists and has been used in everything from medical marijuana plants to garden-variety house plants.

By clipping off the tips of young sequoia and redwood branches, they ensure the most likely successful cloning.

Think of it as The 6th Day meets the Swamp Thing. The project is being led by arborist David Milarch, co-founder of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, who claims we are in a “race against time” and this is our last chance to reverse climate change.

Why these trees are special.

Sequoias and redwoods are unique in that they are very resistant to drought, flooding, parasites, and fungi because of their robust genetics. Which is why they’ve been around for 3,000 years.

The arborists believe that cloning more sequoias and redwoods in other areas of the world can slow down global warming by absorbing more carbon dioxide. Not everyone agrees with Milarch’s vision, though.

Impact on temperatures?

One critic, biology professor Ted Dawson at the University of California - Berkeley, doesn’t think the giant trees have better genes, but rather better luck.

He said that cloning and growing such a limited number of trees simply won’t cool off a warming planet by absorbing excess carbon dioxide emissions, considered a greenhouse gas.

Dawson says “global warming is a global problem” and you’d have to plant a whole lot of trees to affect worldwide temperatures.

He believes that saving our existing rainforests and getting off fossil fuels would do more to slow warming than planting a hectare of giant sequoias and redwoods. But he does admire Milarch’s determination.

The cloning process.

Once the young sprigs are cut from standing trees, they are wrapped in wet newspapers, placed in ice-filled carriers, and flown overnight to Archangel’s lab in northwestern Michigan. The 2,000 or so clippings that are about two inches long are planted in small containers filled with peat and fertilizer. Another 1,000 stamp-sized sprigs are added to jars containing a mixture of growth hormones and a seaweed-based goo. All are placed under grow lights with the temperature and humidity set to encourage maximum rooting.

Those that survive the cloning process will be replanted in one of Oregon’s damper areas later this year. Whether they take root and grow in their new habitat will be up to Mother Nature. The chances of these new trees slowing warming by any measurable amount remains to be seen, and the volunteers admit as much. Noting what they do is just a “drop in the bucket,” they believe their hard work is better than not doing anything at all.

The group relies on donations, and the volunteers are mostly gardeners and arborists.

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