The World Meteorological Organisation published their latest report on climate change in March, and it makes for unsettling reading. Glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising faster than ever before, and temperatures are at record breaking highs across the world. We’re in uncharted territory now; climate change has progressed way beyond our understanding of it.
“We can’t live without trees and yet we go on destroying forests as if we can,” says Wendy Stephenson. She’s one of the speakers at the upcoming Tree Conference, the first of its kind, taking place in Glastonbury on 4th November. Wendy is Treasurer of TreeSisters, a project dedicated to tackling climate change through reforestation.
“Initially I was drawn because restoring our forests – and soils – is essential to avoid catastrophic climate change, but over time I have come to appreciate that, as well as the ecological services they provide, forests are essential to our wellbeing,” she says.
“Our connection to nature has been increasingly eroded and we have become quite separate from it. In our separation we have forgotten that we are co-dependent beings. We might see the state of our forests as a reflection of our society, a mirror to our behaviour. Instead of being destructive we can be restorative, and the whole purpose of TreeSisters is not just about planting trees, it is about facilitating that shift from being a destructive to a restorative being.”
Trees offer a very simple and practical solution to the huge problem of climate change: when planted and harvested strategically, they take C02 out of the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide through photosynthesis and storing it as carbon.
Suzi Martineau set up the Tree Conference to discuss this and other opportunities trees give. At 12%, the UK has one of the lowest rates of forest coverage in Europe, but we’re slowly working to change that, with the Government having promised to plant 11 million trees by 2020.
“With so many of our native trees under threat, including ash, oak, chestnut and six of the conifers that make up 62% of our forest cover, now is the time to give our energy to supporting the wave of planting happening here in the UK,” she says.
“In 2016, we had an extremely successful campaign to plant a million trees a year,” adds Wendy. “The idea was to crowdsource enough funds from monthly donations to enable the planting of a million trees a year, and this was achieved within weeks,” she says. TreeSisters decided that the next step had to be to aim for a billion trees, which is what they’re currently working towards.
“In our experience, it seems that people really want to see more forests planted and restored. We are just acting as conduit for that to happen,” she says.
The one-day networking event will bring together eco-activists, sustainable landscape architects and experts on tree science. Speakers will talk on global reforestation strategies and ways that you can help locally. There will also be a tree art exhibition on display for two weeks either side of the conference.
Claire Dubois, Founder of TreeSisters, and Wendy will discuss the projects underway in India, Africa and South America; Dr Alan Rayner, former President of the British Mycological Society, will talk about the effects of fungi on hardwood trees; Bruce Parry, documentarian and indigenous rights advocate, will discuss the sentience of trees; and Canada-based Biochemist and botanist Diana Beresford-Kroeger will be sharing the latest scientific tree research via Skype.
The event, which will be live-broadcast worldwide, will feature panel discussions and talks, as well as the opportunity to network with key figures in the tree world. There will be talks on wildlife corridors, clearing toxic waste with fungi, rewilding and how to work effectively with your local Town Council.
“Come along in person or join us live online if you feel called to support the role of trees in the re-greening of our Earth and regeneration of our soils. The Tree Conference aims to contribute to the wider global movement to provide inspiring, practical and workable citizen-led maps to a harmonious future,” says Suzi.