Yishan Wong has taken part in some of the largest disruptions the internet brought to daily living. In the early 2000s, he was a senior engineering manager at PayPal while the company made itself into the bank of the internet. In 2005, he joined a fast-growing new platform called Facebook, where he was a director of engineering on projects like their crowdsourced polylingual translation software. And in 2011, he was offered a position as CEO of Reddit, where he worked for two years before parting ways to work in office real estate instead.
Since 2014, Wong has been a relatively obscure personality, only occasionally reappearing online to discuss working in tech and the often-sordid background mechanisms of social media.
“I’m probably unhireable now,” he joked in a post on Reddit, the platform he likes to lambaste the most. “I’m pretty sure no one will ever hire me as CEO or any other executive position again.”
But that’s not going to stop him from taking charge of a new passion project – trees. Reforestation, to be more precise.
In 2019, Wong read a paper detailing how mass reforestation is the “primary and default way to save the planet from climate change,” and was inspired. He researched what it would take to offset, or compensate for, the nearly 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted by world industry each year and came up with approximately a trillion trees planted across three billion acres. And not just trees, but all the other growth that comes with a young forest.
For reference, Canada, the second largest country in the world, is only 2.5 billion acres in size.
Wong’s reforestation plan, which he calls Terraformation, is meant to research how to turn the 4.7 billion acres of undesirable desert in the world to forest via seawater conversion and irrigation. He is currently running a test plot on an arid corner of Hawaii and seeking funding for the estimated $3 trillion annual price tag.