ORIGIN OF AN IDEA
On 29 September 2017 Don Mullan received a WhatsApp text from a friend, 80-year-old Irish missionary, Fr. Pat Clarke CSSp, who has spent most of his life fighting for the rights of the poor in Sao Paulo’s favelas, and the indigenous peoples affected by illegal logging in both the Amazon and the remnants of Brazil’s Atlantic Rain Forests.
The text included a link to a short BBC documentary about Africa’s Great Green Wall. A wall, when completed, that would span the width of the continent of Africa, in the Sahel belt south of the Sahara Desert, aimed at halting the desertification of the continent, due to Climate Change. It was the first time Mullan learned of the initiative.
Mullan’s imagination was immediately set ablaze. For over a year he had listened with incredulity at the divisive proposal to build a wall along the southern border of the USA, to be paid for by Mexico! A wall with the specific purpose of keeping the poor of Central and South America from entering the territory of the United States.
Africa’s Great Green Wall, however, was different. A wall, which, if successful, will be ranked as a natural Wonder of the World. Mullan immediately recognized that this was a wall that all humanity could believe in because it had several noble objectives. However, he was surprised that, like himself, many had not yet heard of it, in Ireland and abroad, including senior politicians and civil servants.
Due to desertification, caused by Climate Breakdown, 60 million people in sub-Saharan Africa may be forced to migrate during the next three decades. African nations have decided to take action with a project aimed at restoring degraded land.
The Great Green Wall will span 11 countries. It will measure 8,000 kilometers from east to west and will be 15 kilometers in depth. When completed it will be the longest living organism upon the planet.
Mullan’s idea of The Laudato Tree’ © Initiative is inspired by the historic and groundbreaking environmental and development encyclical, Laudato Si’, issued in 2015 by Pope Francis and addressed not just to Roman Catholics, but to all the peoples of the world, on Care for Our Common Home. The title of the encyclical Laudato Si’ is, itself, inspired by the great Canticle of Creation by St. Francis of Assisi, after whom Pope Francis is named.
In the following short BBC documentary, you will see Senegalese women, already engaged in growing the wall, who are singing:
“Praise to the trees [Laudato Trees!]
The wall will bring you prosperity”
They have already planted over 11 million trees!
The Senegalese women, along with Pope Francis, inspired Mullan to develop The “Laudato Tree” © Initiative. It is Mullan’s intention to develop the initiative globally, as a living and life-giving expression of Laudato Si’.
“This is an historic moment.” he says. “For too long colonial powers and multinationals stole the resources of Africa and exploited its people. This is an African initiative that we can all be part of, the growing of a world wonder, that will be a symbol of transformative hope, not just for Africa, but for the entire world.”
You are encouraged to watch the short BBC video above. For further information on The Great Green Wall Project, click here.
Don Mullan is now a consultant with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), pioneering the Great Green Wall and has forged important links with the African Union. He has been instrumental in helping to secure a grant of 1.2 million euros for a major inventory that is currently establishing exactly how much of the ‘wall’ has been created and how much more needs to be done to realise this epic project by 2030. Mullan is also an Executive Producer on the award-winning feature documentary ‘The Great Green Wall’, having procured the support of the Irish Government, the Laudato Si’ Challenge, and Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter.
Mullan has discussed with the UNCCD and the African Union the importance of building a popular global movement to ensure the wall is completed by 2030. Key to this will be the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel whose capacity he hopes to help grow through the Laudato Tree © Initiative. Supporting Mullan in this endeavor is Eric Harr, Founder and CEO of the Laudato Si’ Challenge. Harr’s 9-year-old son, Turner, is an Associate Producer on the Great Green Wall documentary film and his 16-year-old daughter, Vivienne, has agreed to lead the Laudato Tree Initiative in the USA and worldwide. You may listen to Vivienne’s foundational statement by clicking here.
On May 10, 2020, The Laudato Tree © Initiative and the movement being built by young Vivienne Harr was endorsed by Pope Francis. The Initiative has also been adopted by the Vatican as one of the primary projects to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Laudato Si’.