What Can I Do to Help?

August 27, 2021
Yishan Wong

The key idea behind Terraformation is that a simple solution can solve an enormous problem if we are able to scale it.

If you want to help, there are two key steps:

1. Do something.

2. Commit to scaling it.

I’ll explain what it means to do this.

First, do something.

This is as simple as it sounds. You probably know something you can do right now that will help climate change. The obvious one is to plant a tree. There are even organizations online that you can pay to plant a tree.

But once you’ve done whatever you’re going to do, you probably feel a little let down — OK, you did your part, but it felt like a drop in the bucket, right? How is this making a difference?

That’s where the second part comes in — committing to scaling it.

Make your commitment to do 10x as much next year as you just did this year.  

Commit to doing this every year until the end of the decade.

This isn’t too hard. You have an entire year to think about how you’re going to plant 10 trees next year. (If you think that’s too easy, you can start off this year with 10 trees and make 100 trees your goal for next year — fit the task to your current capabilities.)

Then commit to do this 10x scaling every year until 2030.  So the year after that, you’ll plant 100 trees. Then in 2024, you’ll plant 1,000 trees. 

In Year 6 you already know you will be responsible for 100,000 trees.  How are you going to do that? Well, 6 years is enough to do a lot to prepare. You could go to school and get a whole university degree in that time. You could start a business. You could rally a movement with members across the world. What were you doing 6 years ago?

Building upon what you’ve accomplished each year to multiply what you can do in the next year is what’s needed to reach the magnitude of impact that we need in order to solve a problem as big as climate change. That’s how we’ll achieve exponential impact.

Long-term commitments are what yield great results.

By making a commitment today, you allow yourself to begin preparing today.

If whatever you’re doing as your first step is too easy this year (it’ll obviously take you less than a year to plant your first tree), spend the time learning to do it right: study up on the best way to plant trees. Learn about what the right native species in your region are. Read about how to best take care of any trees you plant and how to select good locations for them. After all, it’s not about just planting a tree, but seeing it grow to maturity.

Normally, it might not make sense to spend a couple weeks learning the best way to plant a tree. But … it makes a lot of sense if you know you’re going to be doing a lot more in the future.

All of the extra learning will be magnified, because next year you’ll be applying what you learned to 10 trees. And the year after that 100 trees. Everything you learn now in the first few years when it’s “easy” will reap enormous benefits as you scale.

What you learn now will also become building blocks for learning more. Each year you will face new hurdles to achieving the 10x increase that you want. But the things you have learned in the years prior will help you figure out the solutions to these new hurdles.

Finally, you shouldn’t do this alone.

Tell other people you are making this commitment. Tweet about your journey.  Blog about what you learn. You will make mistakes. Talk about them so others can learn from them. Post everything you do and learn on whatever social media or publishing channel you prefer. Leave a record of what you do.

Because what you’re trying to do is show everyone around you that it’s possible. Show that it’s possible to get started, and show there’s a path forward if we all commit to it. Once you get others involved, you’ll be able to work as a team and solve the scaling problems together.

It doesn’t have to be trees.

You should take time to think about what you are best positioned to do.

Maybe you want to plant trees.

Maybe you can talk or write or draw things that inspire people.

Maybe you can meet with politicians.

Maybe you would like to collect seeds for nurseries.

Maybe you’re good at making HVAC more efficient.

There are a lot of things we can do to solve this climate crisis. What’s important is to realize that we need to scale our actions, and that attaining scale means making a long-term commitment and sticking to it.

It’s not about doing it all at once today. It’s about doing a manageable amount now, promising yourself that you’re going to do 10x more the next year, and carrying out that promise.

So if you are asking, “How can I help?” the answer is this:

1. Do something.

2. Commit to scaling it 10x every year.

And: talk about what you’re doing and record everything, so that other people can see what you’re doing and learn how to join you.

Together, we will figure out the rest.

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Yishan Wong
Engineer and climate activist. Specializes in rapid growth tech impact. Ex-engineer at PayPal, Facebook. Ex-CEO of Reddit.
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