India just planted 50 million trees to take on climate change.

Quick! Trivia question: How many trees is a lot of trees?

Photo by Abrget47j/Wikimedia Commons.


50 trees? Yep. You could argue that's a lot.

Photo by Nickrds09/Wikimedia Commons.

500 trees? That's definitely a solid amount of trees.

Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture/Wikimedia Commons.

5,000 trees? Ah yeah, that's nice. Nice, healthy chunk of trees.

Photo by Hansueli Kraupf/Wikimedia Commons.

What about 50,000,000, though?

What. About. 50,000,000?

That's how many trees were planted by volunteers in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in the span of 24 hours.

Photo by Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP.

"The world has realized that serious efforts are needed to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of global climate change. Uttar Pradesh has made a beginning in this regard," Akhilesh Yadav, chief minister of the state, told participants in the effort to set a new Guinness World Record, according to an Associated Press report.

The group was attempting to shatter the previous record of 847,275 trees planted in 24 hours, which was set three years ago in Pakistan.

Peach trees in Pakistan. Photo by Junaid Ali/Wikimedia Commons.

Hundreds of thousands of people participated in the tree-planting drive, which began on July 11. Roughly 49.3 million were reportedly planted.

"I've read in a book that this tree releases maximum oxygen," eighth-grader Shashwat Rai told the AP. "There is so much pollution in the city, we need trees that produce oxygen."

Hundreds of thousands of people going out in the world to actually do something about climate change is an example we all can learn from.

Simply put, the Earth is warming because the carbon dioxide and other gases we put in the atmosphere are trapping more heat near the surface.

Trees breathe carbon dioxide.

Perhaps the easiest way to help put a pin in global warming is simply to have more trees.

And 800,000 people got off their couches to make that happen. That's pretty great.

Not to mention, trying to break each others' tree-planting records is probably the most productive manifestation of India and Pakistan's geopolitical rivalry ever.

For almost 70 years, the relationship between the two nations has been characterized by competing territorial claims, nuclear brinkmanship, and occasional armed conflict.

So if India wants to challenge Pakistan to a tree-off, I'm all for that. I'd even watch the inspirational movie about it 20 years from now. Like a chlorophyll-soaked Miracle on Ice.

Ficus! Ficus! Ficus! Photo by Steve Powell/Getty Images.

Here in the United States, we've still got to move past square one when it comes to solving climate change.

The Uttar Pradesh effort wouldn't have been possible without coordination between citizens, volunteer groups, and, critically, local government.

Meanwhile, a lot of American policymakers refuse to acknowledge that climate change is manmade and, thus, don't really want to do much about it.

It's important to call them and persuade them otherwise — and if they don't listen, to replace them with people who do.

In the meantime, we can and should tip our caps to a determined team of thousands for making their corner of the world 50,000,000 times shadier.

Trees line a highway in Uttarakhand, India. Photo by Paul Hamilton/Flickr.

In the best way possible.

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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