Arizona resident Trisha Franklin, a longtime fan of Michael Jackson, recently founded the "A Million Trees for Michael" program in which she teamed up with non-profit organization American Forests to plan the future planting of donated trees in honor of the late recording artist.
The goal of the program is to boost the general public's motivation about taking care of the Earth, and this includes woodworkers using wood, says Franklin. All donations are made on the www.amilliontreesformichael.com website, but are processed through American Forests. There is a $15 minimum, which will plant 15 trees.
"It doesn't really cost very much to give something back to the world. American Forests has come out and said that if every person plants 30 trees a year, that those trees would offset the carbon deficit from their cars and from their homes and for woodworkers from the wood that is used up," she says.
Franklin was inspired by the movie "This Is It", which is about the making of Michael Jackson's last concert. She was moved by the way it depicts a humanitarian side of Jackson that was real and vulnerable, with a passion to make a positive difference in the world.
One particular segment she was touched by featured "Earth Song," played along with a symbolic video. The video begins with a little girl playing with colorful butterflies in a pristine, lush rain forest. She eventually grows tired and gently falls asleep on some moss. While she is sleeping, various scenes of destruction are shown, including a bulldozer unearthing all of the trees in the rain forest.
When the girl awakes, the rain forest is smoldering. The girl sees the destruction and hears a bulldozer coming toward her. She starts running and sees one lone little tree. Franklin says it appears the girl knows instinctively that she has to save it, so she runs over to the tree, gets on her knees and starts digging, but the bulldozer keeps getting closer and closer. The scene turns into Michael Jackson talking about the Earth being sick.
"Michael says everybody thinks someone else will take care of the problem - the government or 'they' - but 'they' who? It's up to us to do our part or we'll never be 'them'," says Franklin. "[Michael] was trying to show people the problems in our world and shake people up out of their complacency so they will all act together and do something about that."
Franklin says American Forests is waiting for approval from Jackson's parents, Joe and Katherine Jackson, to use Michael's name on its website, www.americanforests.org, and make a dedicated page for the donation program. She says the organization plans to start a forest in California in Jackson's name once donations reach 10,000 to 15,000 trees, the minimum required to plant a small forest. As of early July, the count was a little more than 7,000.
This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue.