The Power of Collective Action: A Single Tree Versus a Forest

The Power of Collective Action: A Single Tree Versus a Forest

As we near Earth Day this weekend, we can’t help but be reminded of this:

Every single one of us holds the ability to drive powerful change. Collective effort, however, is often the key to amplifying that ability on an even greater scale. 

Our culture tends to romanticize individualism. We’re constantly drawn to that ever-popular image of the genius entrepreneur or the creative artist going at it alone. 

But how real is that picture? When you peel back the layers, you’ll find that behind every great idea, invention or movement, there is often a duo, an ensemble, a whole community of people that makes any single dream possible.  

This is true of everything, from the daily and quotidian — raising a family, achieving an ambition at work, or accomplishing a creative goal — all the way up to grander projects of combating injustice or protecting our planet.

A Single Tree Does Not Make A Forest

This sentiment brings us to the meaningful message behind one of our favorite Chinese expressions: “A single tree does not make a forest (獨木不成林).”  

Appearing for the first time in a book from fifth-century China, this saying recognizes that while an individual tree is unique and important, it’s only the first step towards the impact of an entire forest.

At the same time, each tree remains essential as part of a greater whole, a piece in a larger tableau of beauty and strength.

Together, the combined trees of a forest can powerfully clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, and give shelter to numerous plants, insects and animals that keep our world healthy.

Similarly, each of us offers our own strengths and talents, but can only go so far on our own. 

Whether it’s bringing an idea to life through feedback from friends, supporting family members through life’s difficulties, or teaming up with like-minded people to champion purposeful causes, even bigger or seemingly impossible things can become reality with the help of others.

Reflections for this Week

This week, we invite you to think about those moments in your life when you became part of a greater goal — a time when your direct actions led to the success of an important project or dream.

Maybe you fundraised for a cause that you cared about, or inspired another in your life to reach a milestone with your advice. Maybe you showed up as part of someone’s support network, offering your time, love and energy for them to pursue their goals. 

You may be surprised by how many of those moments, little or big, that you can think of; that might have just slid under your radar and are worth celebrating. 

And conversely, if you’re someone who loves to give, but are not used to asking for help, are there any areas in your life where you can allow others the joy of contributing to your “forest” as well?

Let’s linger a little on this idea of connection over going at it alone. It’s a reminder that when we team up together to fight life’s challenges or towards a bigger cause, we (and the world) are often better for it. 

In honor of Earth Month, we are pleased to be donating a portion of all proceeds from our “A Single Tree” postcards and art prints to Cool Earth! Contributions will support their mission to aid indigenous communities, protect rainforests and fight the climate crisis.

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