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'Alexa, grow a tree.' Is Amazon scheme help or hindrance?
For a dollar, you can instruct electronic assistant in reforestation efforts.
(A native of England, Matthew Diebel is a veteran journalist who has worked at NBC News, Time, USA Today and News Corp., among other organizations. Having spent his childhood next to one of the world's fastest bodies of water, he is particularly interested in tidal energy.)
“Alexa, what’s the weather forecast?” “Alexa, read me a book.” “Alexa, call my wife.” “Alexa, play ‘Hey Jude.’”
“Alexa, grow a tree.”
Yes, starting this week, the Amazon (AMZN) electronic assistant can be instructed to have you donate $1 to One Tree Planted, an environmental charity that supports reforestation around the world, according to a news release. Customers can view how many trees they help to plant through their Amazon Pay account.
Of course, Alexa, despite her many abilities, will not actually be planting the trees, which will find homes in surface mine restoration in Appalachia, forest fire areas in California, fruit trees to fight hunger in India and for orca protection in the Pacific Northwest, where, it is hoped, planting trees along rivers and streams will restore habitant for salmon, the primary food source of the endangered whales. That duty will fall, in California, for example, to “hard-working foresters [who] will dedicate time to promote improved vegetation planning and resource management” to prevent wildfires, said One Tree Planted.
All clean and green? Not exactly, say some skeptics about Amazon’s carbon-sucking initiative, which was no doubt hatched up in part to burnish the company’s green credentials. For instance, The Verge pointed to a study published last year in the journal Nature which found that tree-planting projects in India, on average, failed to result in bigger forest canopy; instead, it changed the makeup of the forest away from tree species on which local residents typically rely. And Protocol pointed to its story from last month in which it worried that much-needed farmland would be lost to forests of donated trees.
Overall, it might be better to ask Alexa to order you a climate-friendly heat pump.