The Project

At the End of the World, Plant a Tree

Andrew Hobbs Photography / Hugh Miller Design


2020 was plagued with the unfamiliar for most of the people around the world. During the month of September in California we experienced weeks of poor air quality due to a series of wildfires that consumed vast areas of forest and natural reserves across the state. Amidst the peak of that wildfire season, I woke up one morning in San Francisco to a day without sun. I could barely make out its presence as the sky was covered by a dense and macabre orange veil. I went outside and cycled across the city to The Embarcadero and that’s where it finally hit me—like a brick. This apocalyptic atmosphere was in reality a premonition, A Glimpse of the Future. It was the pain derived from that experience which gave me the idea—and the inspiration—that drove much of the music in this album. That pain is its leitmotif, as it was also Cassandra’s: The ability to see the future, coupled with the impotence to avert it.


Urban setting of San Francisco during the wildfires and the whole sky is covered by an orange veil
Photo: Erich Martino 

Like everyone else, I’m guilty of taking things for granted. Simply assuming that the way we live our lives is fine—because it’s always been fine—and that things will always be as they are. This is clearly an illusion that has kept the veil on an uncomfortable fact: The way we live our lives is destroying the planet.


Photo: Erich Martino  

In my life I feel fortunate to have experienced beautiful and pristine nature that was far removed from any civilisation—untouched by humans. I have been able to return to some of these places that were imprinted in my memory as staples of untouched natural beauty—and I found them unrecognisable. Permanently scarred by the fallacy we call ‘progress.’ This human construct anchored in the extinction economics of endless growth. This notion drives a behaviour in our society, where we as individuals—as well as collectively—aspire to possess more, and to persistently improve on what we already have. Who gets to define what ‘more’ and ‘better’ mean to us? Who owns the yardstick to measure the stature of our lives?


Photo: Erich Martino 


Contrary to these ideas, nature’s way of evolving is plainly to adapt, and adaptation often means reduction and simplification. Accumulation and growth do exist, but always as a transient, short-lived phase. Yet permanent accumulation and growth are the cornerstones of the ideology we’ve all been indoctrinated into, and we are incapable of seeing the damage we are causing.


Photograph: Noah Berger/AP


Some time after the wildfires, I found myself reading an editorial by Adam Greenfield called At the End of the World Plant a Tree. Adam’s words strongly resonated with my own emotions. His vision, detailing how despite our civilisation having already crossed a point of no return—yet not everything being lost—and us having a responsibility to bring consciousness to the way we act, and to the choices we make. I agreed with him in that it is our responsibility to rebel against societal inertia.


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That is why I decided to contact Adam. I wanted to share with him the music I had written and thank him for the inspiration I had found in his words. We quickly discovered that there was much emotional affinity between my music and his essay, so I asked Adam to borrow his title for this now homonymous album. He graciously accepted. Taking a greater leap of faith, Adam also agreed to record his voice reading his own text, which I sampled into some of the tracks in the album. Adam once said to me: “As a creator the most rewarding feeling is to know that your work has sparked and inspired the recipient to take an action and do something.” I found this idea quite compelling, and I have repurposed it, and reframed it to invite other people to partake of this project and to collaborate with me.


Design Hugh Miller / Photo: Wayne Sun  


I am enormously grateful to Hugh, Jay, Andrew, Wayne, Tupac, Rodrigo and Mij, who have helped me in the development and the evolution of the project you now hold in your hands.



In the end, I have no answers, only questions but global warming may still be horrific enough to obliterate the current organised human societies as we know them unless we all act at once. Hence, here is my message in a bottle, embodying my hope to inspire you—and others beyond—to be conscious, to take in the measure of what is really happening, to get informed, and to continue to learn (Adam’s editorial is a great starting point). The problem we have created is not for an individual—or a nation, or a continent—to resolve alone. Perhaps for the first time in human history, we face an existential crisis that will require collaboration on a global scale. Let us come together and act whilst there is still time.

Let us not sit idly by.   

 Erich Martino, San Francisco Ca, Spring 2023