Alastair Campbell: I couldn’t stop Brexit, but I could do my bit to save the planet

Anyone who objects to my incessant posting of tree photos on social media can blame Georgia Gould, the leader of Camden council and the daughter of the Labour strategist Philip Gould (RIP). Last year, as the People’s Vote campaign collapsed, Georgia – who is always looking out for the health and happiness of others – was very clear about where she thought my energies should be redirected: into saving the planet.

She arrived on my doorstep at Christmas with a clutch of books, notably David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth and Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees – both brilliant. They stirred the dormant ecowarrior within and inspired a resolution that I have kept since: to be a full-blown “dendrophile”, AKA “one who loves trees”. Having failed to stop Brexit, which had been my resolution for 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, what could be easier than succeeding in saving the planet?

One of Alastair Campbell’s trees of the day
‘I think there should be a tree Olympics.’ Photograph: Alastair Campbell

I can’t remember why I first decided to post a “Tree of the Day” picture on Twitter, but it seemed to strike a chord. It was early in the new year, after taking a few snaps of trees on Hampstead Heath, and since then I have posted a tree photo every single day. The heath has been the biggest provider, but I travel far and wide in the UK, as well as globally pre-Covid, so I have had winning trees from all four UK nations and several continents. The judgment I apply is entirely subjective.

Although I get far more likes and retweets for my political musings, I get far more pictures back, and far less abuse, for my trees. Any negative messages I am sent are more than made up for by the joy I get in choosing, from my photos and those of others, my Tree of the Day.

The international reaction has made me think there should be a tree Olympics – especially since the real Olympics got banjaxed by Covid.

I would like to see every country in the world host its own tree-based reality TV show – yes, I hate them, too, but I am bringing dendrophilia to the masses – to decide, from thousands of entries, via a primetime Saturday night vote after a three-month whittling down process, the eventual winner. That would then go to a global vote, Eurovision style, to find the world’s greatest tree.

Yes, it is a mad fantasy, but so were the Olympic and Paralympic Games and Boris Johnson’s moonshot. Even if, like Johnson’s moonshot, it never happens, I can already justify the time and effort I have put into Tree of the Day by rereading the regular messages I get. For example, someone called Lucy got in touch to say: “I hope you are never going to get bored with your Tree of the Day; it is one of the few things keeping me sane right now.”

Me too …


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