Seedling Trail Run

Last night I've had a peculiar dream. 

I took part in a trail run competition that combined the sport with an environmental challenge. Our task was not only to get to the finishing line as soon as possible — we were also supposed to plant trees on the way.

We would earn points based on both the finishing time and on the number of seedlings planted. In this way the slower runners could improve their chances by planting more trees. But planting takes time as well, so it was an exercise in balancing the two.

A new discipline!

At each of the refreshment points along the trail there was a box of tree seedlings with roots in biodegradable bags. After a quick drink we would grab a few of the seedlings and run on. 

One would think the scheme was flawed since anyone could stick the young plants anywhere along the path, or even chuck it away after the next turn. But the organizers — that is, my sleeping brain — took every precaution.

There were a few simple rules about the permissible planting location. For example we could not dig too close to the path, and not too close to other sprouts, either. That meant that the easiest spots were getting populated real quick and the latecomers had to strategize between wasting time looking for a vacant spot in a populated area or running on with the load in hope of finding a straightforward location really soon.

In order to avoid fraud we would also document each plant. That was quick thanks to an app on the phone: just take a picture and the system would have the visual and position of our contribution. Both were verified and evaluated in real time by an AI trained with millions of images of freshly planted trees.

And so in the finish we would see the time but also the points that reflected both the speed and the number of correctly planted trees. Accidentaly damaged seedlings as long as they were recorded but discarded seedlings were penalized by negative points.

Anybody thinking of doing this for real? Let me know, I'm in!
 

Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Belgium
April 5, 2020 ~ September 17, 2020

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